Like all attorneys, Asian-American lawyers strive for legal excellence by honing their expertise and delivering quality client service. Yet, they often confront a myriad of stereotypes, biases, and misconceptions from colleagues and even clients. In this interview, Prof. Peter Huang of Colorado Law delves into the unique challenges and biases Asian-American lawyers face.
Prof. Huang discusses how many view Asian-American lawyers through the lens of the "model minority" myth. This stereotype paints Asian-Americans as a monolithic group, emphasizing traits such as studiousness, diligence, and obedience, and overlooking their diverse individual qualities. Such perceptions can have detrimental effects. Aspiring Asian-American leaders or law partners may find themselves pigeonholed as effective but potentially lacking creativity or vision, consequently limiting their ascent to senior roles.
To give context, Prof. Huang examines notable historical examples of institutional biases against Asians in the U.S., notably citing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This federal law, unique in its explicit targeting, suspended Chinese immigration and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization. Prof. Huang also references the Supreme Court's 1944 Korematsu decision, which sanctioned the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. While such glaring acts of state discrimination have diminished, Prof. Huang emphasizes that today's Asian-American lawyers still wrestle with more subtle, often unspoken or subconscious biases. He further enriches the discussion by introducing concepts like the “perpetual foreigner syndrome” or the minority “cloak of invisibility” shedding light on multifaceted challenges Asian-American professionals encounter.
Disrupting Racism: Essays by an Asian American Prodigy Professor (2023) – a book by Professor Huang exploring how racism's devastating impact on individuals, communities, and societies be prevented
Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) – The first and only major law explicitly restricting immigration based on a single nationality.
Korematsu v. United States (1944) – Established that the internment of Japanese American citizens during wartime was constitutional
Additional Scholarly Articles by Prof. Huang