Naomi Ko, the Korean-American actress who’s gaining attention for her supporting role in Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” spoke with Kylee McIntyre of the Visibility Project about her frustration with the model minority myth and what she hopes people will see in the critically acclaimed film. Ko’s part was pretty small, but it was pivotal: Her character, Sungmi, encourages black students on campus to unite with other groups of color to protest a racist frat party.
“People don’t think Asian Americans are capable of assembly and protesting […] that’s part of the whole model minority stereotype: Asians do really well and assimilate and become doctors and pay taxes and vote Republican,” Ko says. She rolls her eyes a little and hits me with a no-nonsense look. “That’s not what we do.”
…“What ’Dear White People’ made me [realize] was not necessarily what it meant to be a woman, Korean-American, person of color. I’m already confident in that,” says Ko, who remembers being brought up in the “first wave” of Asian American identity. “Like, figuring out what it means to be Korean or American or Korean-American? That annoys me.”
Read more at the Visibility Project.