Just as red and gold are staple colors of Chinese culture, so is black. Black is associated with negative subjects such as death and bad luck, a mentality that carries over to how skin tones are viewed.
In Asia, people with darker skin tones are largely looked down upon with the connotations of being poor, ugly, and as among the commoners. In the past, poor farmers tanned as they worked long hours under the sun while the rich and powerful largely stayed pale from being inside and not needing to do manual labor. As with most other cultures, these outdated associations with skin color haven't left modern culture. There are many rampant stereotypes about dark-skinned people fueled by the Asian media’s constant portrayal of dark- skinned villains and dumb comic relief characters. Characters who are smart and “good,” on the other hand, like princesses and love interests, are mostly pale. Pale skin is such a standard of beauty in Asia that harmful skin bleach is a popular cosmetic product, always marketed with the claim that beauty comes from light skin only.
As Asians began immigrating to America, the Asian cultural divide between light and dark skin combined dangerously with the “model minority” mindset. The “model minority” label separates Asian immigrants from other American minorities, namely African Americans, by claiming that with their hard work and quiet nature, Asians are the ideal minority that others should live up to. Not only does this stereotype box Asian Americans into a certain standard that makes it easier to ignore and dismiss them, it also began as another way for white Americans to oppress and belittle other minorities such as blacks and Latinos.
The “model minority” standard takes toxic cultural mindsets about skin color and feeds off of them to divide minorities further to the benefit of the white majority. If minorities are separated, they are not able to band together, and they are kept as separate, smaller voices that are easier to silence as compared to one unified crowd.
In 2009, animosity between the black and Asian student populations of South Philadelphia High School grew to where a group of mainly black students organized an attack on over 30 Asian students, resulting in some having to be hospitalized for the physical assault. The story made headlines around the country after Asian South Philly students retaliated with a week-long boycott of the school, stating that the school had known about the growing tension between the black and Asian student communities and did nothing to help. With new administrative staff, in the years following the school an intensive effort began to integrate the students better, including having workshops on self defense and no longer separating immigrant students on a separate floor from the rest of the student body. Now, almost ten years later, the school is still well known for its strong English as a Second Language programs and also as much less divided than it was in 2009.
The “model minority” myth harmfully and unnecessarily divides minorities and keeps them from accepting and appreciating each other. The consequences of this are clear.