Last Week Tonight: John Oliver explains racism against Asian Americans and problem with ‘model minority’

Last Week Tonight: John Oliver explains racism against Asian Americans and problem with ‘model minority’
‘The model minority myth is a tool of white supremacy and a trap’

In the latest episode of his award-winning show, host John Oliver tackled the contentious issue of the “model minority” and how it normalises discrimination against Asian Americans.

In Monday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, the 44-year-old political commentator said: “It is pretty clear that many in this country don’t seem to know much about the history or experiences of Asian Americans.”

He said Asian Americans are classified as “model citizens” and are presumed to be more educated and monetarily stable than other marginalised groups — an idea, in the British-American comedian’s opinion — that has been “as persistent as it is problematic.”

“Very basically, America prioritised wealthy, more educated Asian immigrants, then turned to Black people who’d been subjugated for centuries and said, ‘See? They’re educated and successful. Why aren’t you?’” he said.

Furthermore, he also claimed that this myth has exhibited a ton of harm as it is one of the main causes of suicides among young Asian Americans, with only 8.6 per cent of them seeking help as compared to 18 per cent of the total population.

“This is what happens when you’re consistently told to quietly and happily accept discrimination because your version is the nice racism,” he said.

Asian Americans: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

“A central premise of the model minority myth is that the key to overcoming American racism is simply strong values and hard work, with the implication being that groups that haven’t succeeded simply haven’t tried hard enough,” he added.

“And putting aside how offensive that is, the truth is that whether or not you’re successful, living a life defined by a racist fantasy just isn’t good for you,” he said.

Asian Americans comprise 7 per cent of the US population, consisting of diverse heritage from over 20 countries around the world.

“There is no nice racism, there is no silver lining to it, and there is no working your way out of it. You are perpetually treated like a foreigner, still asked where you’re really from, and Asian Americans are one geopolitical crisis away from becoming the targets of violence again,” Oliver said.

Before concluding his section, Oliver highlighted that “the model minority myth is a tool of white supremacy and a trap.”

He urged his listeners to find ways to have smarter, more nuanced conversations about the reality of the Asian American experience, “and we cannot do that without access to high quality disaggregated data that can help better fit public policy to the actual needs of individual communities,” he said.

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