Amid Oscars Diversity Row, Few Asians Laughing At ‘Model Minority’ Jokes

By AARON MORRISON, Staff Writer (IBTimes)

Published: March 1, 2016

Elizabeth OuYang has never forgotten how she felt when her younger brothers were teased and targeted by a neighborhood bully because of their race. The OuYangs, the only Chinese-American family in their Rochester, New York, neighborhood, had been the target of racially insensitive comments, she said.

OuYang, now a 51-year-old civil rights attorney, was again reminded of her youthful experiences when she watched the 88th Academy Awards telecast Sunday. The show’s host, comedian Chris Rock, used much of his opening monologue to blast Hollywood and its exclusion of African-Americans, before using Asians and Asian stereotypes in a joke about math proficiency and child labor in the tech-manufacturing industry.

“It’s these kinds of portrayals that lead to taunting and bullying against Asians in this country,” OuYang said in a phone interview Tuesday. “If anything, the Oscars demonstrated the need for diversity in the arts, as well as in nontraditional fields for Asians.”

Amid reaction to Sunday night’s telecast, in which racial diversity was a major theme, advocates for Asian-Americans said they were tired of being the butt of jokes that they claim are a double standard. As the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S., Asians have not traditionally had the clout to push back on dangerous stereotypes and racism in the media. But that may be changing, as the demographic increasingly leverages its achievements in academia, sports and politics to seek inclusion in the diversity discussion.

“Even though Asian-Americans have been in this country for hundreds of years, we are always seen as the perpetual foreigners,” said StephanieChoof the group Asian-Americans Advancing Justice, a civil and human rights advocacy group headquartered in Washington, D.C.Chois executive director of the organization’s Atlanta office.

“This perpetualforeignerperception has sort of made it okay for others to discount the Asian-American voice,” Cho, who is Korean-American, said in a phone interview. “They will be quiet; they aresubmissive, but they will do your taxes for you,” she added, rattling off several prevailing stereotypes.

On Sunday, Rock, the Oscars host, trotted out the “model-minority” stereotype by introducing Asian and Jewish children as “Oscar accountants” from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which tabulates award votes. “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids,” Rock quipped in an apparent reference to smartphone manufacturing in China.

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