Ignoring our ‘model’ minority

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Being a “model minority” sounds good, but may not be all it is cracked up to be.
Filipino scholar Dr. Dina C. Maramba said being a high functioning Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) has its drawbacks.
Members of America’s “model minority” are high achievers, she said, but quiet and overlooked.
Maramba, a Filipino-American, said she was not used to talking about what was important to her. At first, she thought of it as boasting. Now she is doing lots of talking as a university professor and guest speaker advocating for AAPI students.
Like many students in this district, Maramba is a first-generation American. She grew up in National City where she attended National City Middle School and Sweetwater High.
An Associate Professor of Student Affairs Administration and Asian-American Studies at the State University of New York (SUNY), Maramba said she has worked in programs designed to increase the number of underrepresented students in higher education. She earned her M.S. in student affairs in higher education from Colorado State University and her Ph.D. in higher education from Claremont Graduate University. She contributed to the book “The ‘Other’ Students: Filipino Americans, Education, and Power” with Rick Bonus. It is the first book of its kind to focus specifically on Filipino-Americans in education, she said.
In her first order of business, Maramba spoke eloquently about “dispositionality.”
“By ‘dispositionality’ I mean by what Linda Alcoff, a feminist scholar explains that one’s identity such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation are not fixed qualities but rather markers in relation to order and context which they come.”
She said that knowledge can then be further legitimized and understood when disposition is acknowledged.
To Maramba, the better people critically reflected on their identities in context, the better the chance to have a stronger sense of self. By doing just that, Maramba discovered her passion and what topics to care about.
“I also learned from my mentors that if you don’t create your own stories, someone else will,” she said.
Maramba said most colleges and universities do not have enough Filipino professors.
“I am currently one of the few faculty of color and one of the few Filipino professors at my university,” she said. “Up until two years ago, I was the only Filipino professor.”
Filipinos are the largest Asian-American group in California and second-largest immigrant population in the U.S. after Latino, she said. SWC’s spring 2015 enrollment is 10 percent Filipino.
Filipino-American representation in faculty is important to Filipino-American students’ well-being and sense of belonging, she said. Maramba’s studies revealed that there are only 114 Filipino college professors in the United States, of which 14 percent are full professors, 40 percent are associate professors, and 14 percent are assistant professors.
AAPIs, as a “model minority,” are assumed to have achieved high levels of educational and economic success.
“Because of that stereotype, many services are not catered to Asian-American students,” said Maramba. “There is this assumption that they are well-adjusted they are fine and they are star students.”
Maramba said Filipino college students enrolling in universities are unintentionally damaging the population. She said most Filipino-American students would mark yes on forms that ask if their parents graduated from college. Many Filipino immigrants, however, have college degrees from the Philippines. Maramba said that the college experience in the Philippines is very different from that of the U.S.
“Filipino-American families do not necessarily have the cultural patronal or social patronal about college to pass onto their children,” she said. “The real question should read ‘did your parents graduate college in the U.S.?’”
Expectations for Asian-American students to uphold the model minority stereotypes cause anxiety and stress, Maramba said.
“At Cornell University every semester there is a report talking about a number of Asian-American students committing suicide,” she said.
Maramba urged Filipino students to speak up, engage and network.
“Students have so much power, and because students know what the issues are and what is going on campus, you are efficient to adjust to these issues. It’s about working with and supporting your African-American brothers and sisters, your Latino brothers and sisters and supporting your Asian-American brothers and sisters. You will find that you have so much more in common than differences.”

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