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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Since its inception, social science has spawned a succession of theories that purport to explain differential rates of ethnic mobility as a byproduct of the cultural values of the groups themselves. The fatal flaw of these theories is that they reify culture by failing to examine its anchorage in history and social structure, eliding the very factors that produce and reproduce these value systems. This chapter critiques two theoretical propositions that currently pervade both popular and scholarly discourses: the projection of Asian Americans as “a model minority” and the supposition that black underachievement is the result of “acting white.” It is argued that these theories provide epistemic justification for the cleavages of race and class that continue to rend American society.

Keywords: Model minority myth, acting white, Asian Americans, African Americans, success myths, structural racism

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