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This article problematizes the model minority myth as an analytic in discussions of Asian American conservatism by reassessing the personal and political development of S.I. Hayakawa, Acting President of San Francisco State College during the Third World Liberation Front strike of 1968–1969. Contemporary activists and Asian American studies scholars influenced by the strike’s legacy have seen Hayakawa as a staunch conservative and an advocate of the model minority myth. However, Hayakawa was primarily motivated by his lifelong identification with the liberal tradition and his work as an advocate for racial equality. His realignment as a neoconservative Republican reflected the shifting political landscape of the late 1960s and early 1970s rather than a transformation of his ideas. This article reexamines his ideas and activities to argue that, despite his legacy as a conservative, he in fact challenged and complicated the model minority myth’s depictions of Asian American passivity and assimilation. I argue that distinguishing the model minority myth and conservatism as two separate, though interrelated, concepts can open scholars to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of each within Asian American political and intellectual history.


This is an Accepted Manuscript version of an article accepted for publication in Amerasia Journal, volume 48, issue 1, in 2022. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Taylor & Francis

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Tuesday, May 21, 2024