"In America there is a desire to identify, to describe, and then categorize people"

In a CBS interview, restauranteur and Fresh Off The Boat writer Eddie Huang shared his views on the ‘model minority myth’.

Defined by Teaching Tolerance, the model minority myth “perpetuates a narrative in which Asian American children are whiz kids or musical geniuses. Within the myth of the model minority, Tiger Moms force children to work harder and be better than everyone else, while nerdy, effeminate dads hold prestigious—but not leadership—positions in STEM industries like medicine and accounting.”

Huang, who has detailed his experiences growing up as an Asian American in his Fresh Off The Boat memoirs, described the myth to CBS:

“You’re obedient, you’re docile. You’re the model minority! You come here, you do your work, you’re quiet, and you go home, you don’t cause no trouble. And that’s one of those things that you see in movies all the time, is the Asian shopkeeper: ‘I don’t want no trouble. I don’t want no trouble.'”

CBS Correspondent Mo Rocca asked the BaoHaus owner, “but in Confucianism, humility and modesty are virtues. How much of this is coming from actual cultural traits, and how much of this is coming from an imposition by society?”

“I really think that it’s an imposition,” Huang replied. “If you look at fifth century Greece, and you look at Socrates and you look at Plato, they really are proponents of order and balance as well. Even Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, like a lot of the things that Jesus says, a lot of the things that Muhammad says.”

“In America there is a desire to identify, to describe, and then categorize people,” he added.

Elsewhere in the interview, Huang described being the only Asian-American in his class, recalling an altercation with a fellow third grader.

“He tells me, ‘Chinks get to the back,’ and pushes me down on the lunch line,” Huang said. “But even as a third grader I recognized, I was like, ‘Dude, you’re just picking on me ’cause I’m the only person below you on the totem pole!’ But the whole time I was not mad at the kid, because I knew where it came from. That kid, Edgar, was picked on all the time.”

“When I grew up, I was just told, ‘You’re short, no one’s gonna want you. You’re ugly, you’re gonna have a mole with a hair growth comin’ out like that old Cantonese guy over there!'”