A popular Asian TikToker couldn’t help but ridicule a Washington school district for separating Asians from people of color in its student performance report.
On Nov. 19, user @youngqim shared a screenshot of a NextShark story about North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS), which grouped Asian and white students together in a 2019 report in an effort to boost “the growth rate of underperforming groups.”
Titled “Monitoring Student Growth,” the district attempted to disaggregate its achievement data by separating those who showed “continuous growth” (whites and Asians) from those who didn’t — namely Black, Indigenous, multiracial and Latinx students.
The news didn’t sit well with @youngqim, who mocked the district for ignoring Asians as people of color and perpetuating the model minority myth.
“So a Washington school district decided today that Asians are not students of color,” he says in his TikTok. “This would have been great to know growing up because whenever someone pulled their eyes back or called me a c**** or told me to go back to my country, I could have just been like, ‘Wait, guys, I’m one of you.'”
The clip has since gone viral, receiving over 200,000 likes and plenty of angry comments from fellow TikTok users.
“THEY LITERALLY LABELED US YELLOW AND BROWN WHAT …” one person wrote, in reference to the generalized classification of East Asians and South Asians within the public sphere.
“Ok. Great,” another added. “Where’s my privilege?”
“Not white people deciding what other people are when it fits them,” a third commented.
Twitter users were equally disturbed by the way that the school district carried out its report.
“Hello my fellow Whites,” journalist Ian Miles Cheong contemptuously tweeted.
“I’m white now y’all,” another joked. “Anyone want to go to Gap?”
In an article, the libertarian magazine Reason similarly lambasted the study, suggesting that it overstated the achievement gap between whites / Asians and other students of color.
“Most indicators in the report show that the achievement gap between white/Asian students and ‘students of color’ is fairly narrow and improving over time,” the publication pointed out. “It would probably be even narrower if Asian students were categorized as ‘students of color.'”
For decades, the Asian American community has fought against the model minority stereotype, which often portrays the population as one that has had higher academic and economic success than other racial groups. The stereotype commonly dismisses the struggles that certain Asian communities have compared to others (Bhutanese American, for example, experience far higher rates of poverty than Japanese Americans) and regularly pits Asians against the Black community. As such, critics have argued that surveys like that by the NTPS further perpetuate harmful generalizations of the Asian American community.
For its part, NTPS issued an apology while also defending its handling of the report.
“Upon reflection and response by members of the [Asian American] community, we will change how we look at achievement data and appreciate the feedback we receive,” the district said in a statement. “We apologize for the negative impact we have caused and removed the monitoring report from our website.”
If you found this story insightful, you might want to read about why one writer believes being an Asian American during the current pandemic has been a blessing in disguise.
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