Kathryn Cross | Wellesley College
By now, (social) media is sufficiently inundated with the knee-taking controversy, yet even still every day brings with it a new nuance to be explored. Particularly, the movement gained salient and unique traction when Dr. Eugene Gu, a Vanderbilt University Hospital general surgery resident physician, tweeted a picture of himself kneeling. "I'm an Asian-American doctor and today I #TakeTheKnee to fight white supremacy," Gu tweeted on Sept. 24th.
With over 40,000 retweets and 144,000 likes, Gu’s Tweet suddenly became extremely controversial. Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief replied a tweet with his own thoughts on the matter: "Dude I'd suggest your resume tends to cut against institutional white supremacy arguments." Gu responded to the criticism through a Buzzfeed article, claiming that he was being subjected to act within the bounds of a model minority.
According to The Economist, a model minority is a successful, well-educated, yet passive member of a minority group. Typically, Asians are dubbed as such because culturally, respecting elders is a highly regarded value, so any action that could result in latent conflicts are often brushed under the table. Disagreements and confrontation are minimized. For instance, University Malaysia Sarawak Department of Civil Engineering Lecturer Charles Bong Hin Joo uploaded a paper juxtaposing students who are educated within western and Asian countries, observing their respective participation. In the paper, Joo describes that Asian students remained considerably more silent in class as a whole--for example, they asked less questions than a stereotypical western student.
He hypothesized that this was most likely due to Chinese Confucian Heritage Culture. In Chinese Confucian Heritage Culture, the teacher is seen as omniscient and wise, and any interruption or disrespect of their authority is highly frowned upon. With this cultural pacifism comes another hypothesis surrounding why Asian Americans in particular appear to be a prosperous minority.
According to the model minority idea, Asian Americans avoided conflict, criticism, and thus racism, so they integrated into society better than other minorities. That is why they can be so evidently successful, supposedly. This interpretation of the model minority concept is a flawed one, however. The concept of a model minority validates the idea of pacifism and the United States being a meritocracy.
It belittles slavery to a mere part of international history that can be forgotten if minorities act in a pacifist manner. Furthermore, it minimizes the extent to which any minority faces discrimination and prejudice. Consequently, people like Gu should not even be utilizing the model minority concept as a defense by any means.
Gu’s Tweet was questioned because people believed that he was far too privileged to relate to and advocate against police brutality against African Americans. He should address his own privilege and role in the issue when he speaks out on the matter, and the idea of a model minority should be left out of any conversations--kneeling-
related or not.