Thoughts on… The Myth of the Asian American Dream with Purpose Equity Team

May 28, 2020


Purpose’s Equity Team is a volunteer group of cross-functional Purpose team members that are committed to…” the company’s goals of advancing work, identifying new needs, discussing ideas, and sharing experiences relating to race and racial intersectionality. We are dedicated to shepherding and amplifying Purpose’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We do this work alongside senior leadership and in service of bettering our individuals, our organization, and our impact in the world via clients, funders, partnerships, and content.

Each month, we hope to use this space to share our ever-expanding insights, reflections, and points-of-view with the Purpose community.


We’re Thinking About…


The Myth of the Asian American Dream. Despite hailing from a vast portion of the world, with significantly different cultural contexts, the Asian American experience has largely been ignored or relegated to oversimplified stereotypes.

In recent history, Asian Americans have been celebrated as the “model minority” quietly winning the race for the American dream — as long as they play by the rules. As Cathy Park Hong points out, “in the popular imagination, Asian Americans are all high-achieving professionals. But in reality, this is the most economically divided group in the country, a tenuous alliance of people with roots from South Asia to East Asia to the Pacific Islands, from tech millionaires to service industry laborers.”

These myths propagate harmful stereotypes that erase the vast differences within the Asian American experience and act as implicit criticism of other minorities.

As campaigners, how can we uplift the stories and perspectives that don’t often get heard? How can Asian American communities, which have historically been underrepresented, be fully counted in the census and the 2020 election? How can we put Asian realities above the myths? – Prachi Rao

We’re Inspired By…

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. To uplift overlooked Asian heroes this month especially, the Purpose Marketing and Equity teams compiled a small snapshot of Asian American leaders across the past several decades, with thanks to those media outlets that make it a point to include diverse Asian perspectives year-round.
Contributed by Annie Melia and Elena Scott


Asian-American Activists. Always looking to learn from past activists, we’re revisiting Complex Magazine’s 2016 list of historic Asian-American activists who fought for social justice. The piece highlights individuals around the world who were inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and Asian America’s own “rich activism and intercultural solidarity.”
Contributed by Prachi Rao

We’re reading… 

The Paradox of Diversity in Social Change Organizations. In a paper that lands close to home, the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioural Science outlines how social impact organizations inadvertantly work against their own equity ambitions internally, from overlooking privilege, to unproductively ‘walking on eggshells’, to pitting different issue spaces against each other instead of joining forces to fight injustice.
Contributed by Anne Keenan

We’re watching… 

The Pandemic is a Portal. Princeton scholar Imani Perry interviewed esteemed Indian activist-author Arundhati Roy about coronavirus. Citing marginalization in India, Roy offers the pandemic as a chance to “undo the terrible wounds” of oppression — in contrast to those looking to use it to deepen injustice and inflict even more control.
Contributed by Mohini Narasimhan

Black + Asian American Feminist Solidarities. The Asian Am Feminist Collective and Black Women Radicals advocacy organization joined up to discuss the impact of coronavirus on these respective communities. A resurgence of anti-Asian racism and anti-Black health discrimination uplifts natural cause for the two to stand together. Click in to watch parts 1234, and 5.
Contributed by Lisa Chau & Betty Chan

Quote for Thought… 

“Transform yourself first…Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.” — Yuri Kochiyama