John Oliver Explains Why ‘The Model Minority Myth’ About Asian Americans Is A ‘Tool Of White Supremacy’

Amid the wave of violence against Asian Americans (following Trump’s “Kung Flu” and “Wuhan virus” remarks), John Oliver previously called out those who embraced (and that includes Meghan McCain) Trump’s rhetoric about the coronavirus. He revisited the theme this week to dig deeper into the long-term discrimination against Asian Americans, and that includes the aggregation of data that groups over 20 different ethnicities into one category under the blanket “Asian American” term.

That large and diverse group of people includes a diverse range (not only Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipinos) of education and poverty-level percentages per ethnicity. The range goes from, say, Indian Americans (75% likely to hold bachelor degrees) to Bhutanese Americans (15%, respectively) to wide-ranging poverty rates (10% overall for Asian Americans but 25% for some specific ethnicities, including Mongolian and Burmese Americans). Oliver ended up using an unlikely but digestible analogy around the 7:30 mark about how useless aggregated data really turns out to be:

“Disaggregating the data can reveal big disparities that you couldn’t see previously… looking at averages for Asian Americans as a whole is like looking at the average of the Hemsworth brothers. It’s very misleading when we know that some Hems are Worth a lot more than other Hems are Worth.”

Chris, of course, would be the prevailing Hems who’s Worth more than Luke and Liam, but more to the point, Oliver moved onto what all Asian American groups do share. That would be “the common experience of racial hostility” and “violence,” which goes back to “laws denying them the possibility of becoming citizens or owning land.” Oliver explained what went down as a result of the 1965 Immigration Act that outwardly favored doctors and engineers but also addressed refugees, and in the end, Oliver condemns the U.S. outlook for the bigotry perpetuated by the “model minority myth,” which he flat-out calls a “tool of white supremacy and a trap.”

That trap, as it turns out, extended even further than the vast range of Asian American ethnicities. “Basically, America prioritized 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?’” It’s a pervasive treatment that, as Oliver explains, continues in our current times, and there’s no reason to believe it will disappear unless the American people, starting from the top, adapt their perspective. Watch the entire 27-minute segment above.