Half in and yet half out 1/2

The flag of South Korea (left) and the flag of the state of California (right)

Gook is a derogatory term used to describe a Korean, also used for people of Filipino or Vietnamese descent. This term was obtained from the Korean pronunciation of their country, 한국 (han-gook), and of the United States, 미국 (mee-gook). I heard a story that during the 1950s little children would run up to American soldiers because they had chewing gum, candy, etc., saying “미국! 미국!” referring to the soldiers but it was taken to mean literally, Me gook. Or might be understood as, I am a gook.

One of the first in-depth studies that looked at per capita income between Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups… research consistently shows that for each additional year of education attained, Whites earn another $522.

A White with 4 more years of education [after high school] can expect to earn $2088 per year in salary. In contrast, returns on each additional year of education for a Japanese American is only $438. For a Chinese American, it’s $320. For [African-Americans], it’s even worse at only $284. What this means is that basically, a typical Asian American [or African-American] has to get more years of education just to make the same amount of money that a typical White makes with less education.

Le, C.N. 2020. “The Model Minority Image” Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. (June 13, 2020)

At another place in his article, Dr. Le reminds us that Asian Americans may share some general similarities but we are not all alike. There are plenty of differences among the variety of groups.

For every Chinese American or South Asian who has a college degree, the same number of Southeast Asians are still struggling to adapt to their lives in the U.S. For example, as shown in the tables in the Socioeconomic Statistics & Demographics article, Vietnamese Americans only have a college degree attainment rate of 20%, less than half the rate for other Asian American ethnic groups. The rates for Laotians, Cambodians, and Khmer are even lower at less than 10%.

Le, C.N. 2020. “The Model Minority Image”

More info can be found here and here and here. Just punch “model minority Asian” into your search engine of choice and dig in. (I prefer Duck Duck Go.) This idea has been around for decades and it hurts everyone.



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Skipper Chong Warson

Skipper Chong Warson


Design director at SoftServe, coach, and host of How This Works. Formerly at thoughtbot SF, Fjord NYC, Shep (acquired) and PBS FRONTLINE among others.