The Anti-Model Minority Stereotype is the New Asian American Stereotype

Hyun Kim 김현
4 min readOct 10, 2019
My bedroom in Collegetown, Ithaca, NY circa 1993–1994

More Asian American stories are being told today than ever before. And that’s great. But it feels like the stories that get the most attention are those that seem to contradict the “model minority” stereotype. And along the way that narrative, rebelling against the model minority stereotype, is becoming a stereotype in itself.

I was born in Korea. Moved to The U.S. when I was 7. In Korea I got in trouble for running my mouth. I got punished in school. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was just rambunctious. I don’t remember being an excellent student but I don’t remember being a bad one either. I was just me.

It was of course America that taught me what was expected of me. Of how I was supposed to act and what things I was supposed to excel at. A lot of the popular model minority rebel stories focus on how badass they were when they were young. And I always think aren’t most young people rebellious in nature?

I took piano lessons. And I grew up in Section 8 Housing. I wrote for the school paper and magazine. And I played on the tennis team. I shoplifted at the mall with my Asian American friends. And I went to church, even youth group. I worked at a laundromat (not ours). And I paid 25 cents for reduced lunch. I played alto sax in concert band. And I fell into depression after getting bullied by members of the high school football team. I played Little League baseball. And my high school sweetheart was half Jewish and half Liberian and my mom recently told me that they were surprised when I brought her home because you just didn’t do that type of thing in Korea when they were growing up. I befriended Asian American kids from big cities who got sent to my small city after getting in trouble in their cities and it was them who showed me guns for the first time. I only made it to Tenderfoot in the Boy Scouts. I took tae kwon do. And I fell in love with hip hop.

My childhood was not in that order. It was like most childhoods, a lot of things. It wasn’t a straight line. It does not fit neatly into a three act structure. But then again maybe it does. I don’t think my past makes me any more special than anyone else. My past is my past. And I’m sure there are a lot of holes in my memory of it. And obviously that’s only a part of my past. Most of…

Hyun Kim 김현

Writer/Editor: Vibe, MTV, Tidal. Marketing/Advertising: Nike, Samsung, The Madbury Club. Former #1 Google image search for bald Asian. Seoul->Ithaca->NYC->VLC