The Model Minority Getting Incarcerated

Featured photo credited to Time Magazine

Its 2017, and the model minority myth is no longer as relevant as it was before. In fact Asian Americans and their incarceration rates are on the rise, a subtle change that has gone unnoticed. In 2013, it was estimated to have increased to 9% (over 100,000 Asian Americans) in state and federal prisons. Though these numbers are comparatively low to other ethnicities, it is reported by the AAPI Beyond Bars committee, that Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) represent a community that is often overlooked in the criminal justice system, especially since AAPIs are still officially categorized as “others” in a large part of the U.S. prison system.

“The data is not collected very well. We are categorized as “others” so our numbers are lumped. The data doesn’t aggregate whether you are Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean or Japanese,” – Chhaya Chhoum, Executive Director of Mekong NYC.

Since the data of AAPIs is comparatively lower and is clumped with “others”, it adds fuel to the fire of the model minority myth; that all Asian Americans are in school and not supposedly in jail, undermining the experiences of a lot of AAPIs in which they have to live in urban poverty; hiding a different reality that does not reflect the model minority. Incarcerated AAPIs also experience culturally unique challenges such as cultural stigmas, and disownment from their families.

Tied with the rising percentage of mass incarceration for AAPIs, is the increase in immigration detention and deportation; Southeast Asian Americans in particular. These communities are “three to four times more likely to be deported for old convictions, compared to other immigrant communities.” (Tinabeth Pina)

This article brings to light an issue we have with the current prison system, its population, and its stereotypes. As a sidenote, when looking for an article on Asian-American crime and incarceration rates, the first page of results were titles such as “Asian victimization rates” or “Hate crime towards Asian”; some very different results if you searched crime and incarceration rates of a different minority. Intentional or not, big search engines such as Google are feeding stereotypes of different ethnicities and races to the general population.

This is an authoritative/reputable news source because it was one of the largest reputable news sites that talked about Asian American news; the LA Times and other larger news organizations do not cover this kind of media as often as


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