May 3, 2023 - Podcasts

Why Asian Americans say they don't feel they belong

Half of Asian Americans say they don’t feel safe in this country and nearly 80% of Asian Americans do not fully feel they belong and are accepted. Those are the disappointing takeaways from the latest report from The Asian American Foundation.

  • Plus, what to expect from the Hollywood writers strike.
  • And, the Biden administration prepares for an influx at the southern border.

Guests: Norman Chen, CEO of The Asian American Foundation, and Axios’ Tim Baysinger

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Wednesday, May 3rd. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: what to expect from the Hollywood writers strike. Plus, the Biden administration prepares for an influx at the southern border. But first, what new data tells us about Asian Americans and belonging. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

What new data tells us about Asian Americans and belonging

NIALA: Half of Asian Americans say they don't feel safe in this country, and nearly 80% of Asian Americans don't fully feel they belong and are accepted. Those are the disappointing takeaways from the latest report from the Asian American Foundation. Norman Chen is back with us to go over these results, which also coincide with the start of a AAPI Heritage month. He's the CEO of the Asian American Foundation. Hi Norman, welcome back to Axios Today.

NORMAN CHEN: Hi, Niala. Thanks for having me again.

NIALA: Unfortunately, the headline from this report is the sense of belonging, or maybe we should say disbelonging, among Asian Americans. Asian Americans are the racial group most likely in this country, when we compare to black, white, and Hispanic Americans that don't feel a sense of belonging or acceptance,

NORMAN: It's sad but true, and we've seen this over the last two years that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders overall, as you said, feel the least likely to truly belong in this our, our home country. And that's really disturbing. We've learned this year that also other groups like Hispanic Americans and Black Americans share that deep sense of lack of belonging, and that's really something that our society needs to address.

NIALA: This is the third year you've been doing this. How does that question compare to the first year?

NORMAN: It has been largely consistent. Uh, we've had it really just in the survey just for the last two years, Niala. So last year and this year and last year. And last year we identified again that Asian Americans are the least likely to truly belong. This year we're able to go deeper and ask why do you not feel like you belong? And the results are really enlightening. The number one reason why people say they don't feel like they belong is that they experience discrimination. Imagine if you're in a room, in a school, in public transportation, someone insults you, you know, spits at you or does something terrible to you, that really creates a fear and lack of belonging, and our community has experienced that, which contributes to this lack of belonging in their lives. The second reason is that they don't see themselves in positions of power, the lack of role models. Those are the two key insights we gained this year about why we don't feel like we truly belong.

NIALA: One of the toughest parts of the state is that this is especially acute among young Asian American women. Why is that?

NORMAN: We do find that youth in general, uh, feel less of a sense of belonging cuz they're going through their search for their identity. But women, Asian American women, have been so marginalized in the corporate world, for example, and not represented at senior leadership levels. That's a problem. They also have been. sexualized and fetishized in media, so that you have images of Asian American women as the dragon lady or as the prostitute or as the masseuse worker. And so those images in the public mind and in media are very damaging.

NIALA: One of the data points I think is important for us to talk about is the disparity between how China is viewed as a threat to national security and then how that relates to Chinese Americans, of course, one of many AAPI groups. How does that translate into how Chinese and other Asian Americans are viewed in this country?

NORMAN: You know, this year we've really seen, especially as this report was being compiled, that the weather balloon incident did affect the perception of Americans and seeing China as a military threat, not just an economic threat. But the feeling towards Chinese Americans, thus far, has not also continued negatively. People still see Chinese Americans as, um, very positively, and part of this could be tied to the model minority myths – seeing Chinese Americans and Asian Americans as nice, kind, and hardworking and intelligent. But we do worry, you know, that if there was an incident or an inflammation of an event between the U.S. and China, that could lead to more negative feelings towards Chinese Americans and Asian Americans. Unfortunately, we saw that happen during Covid because of Covid. There was greater animosity towards Chinese Americans and Asian Americans, which resulted in tens of thousands of attacks. So we are very concerned that this could change very quickly.

NIALA: Today the Asian American Foundation is also announcing a $65 million investment in a few key areas, including anti-hate and education initiatives where you all are hoping to enact change. In this time next year, what kind of results are you hoping to see?

NORMAN: We're focusing on four key areas, extending our national anti-hate network, so we're moving from three cities right now to nine cities around the country. That will cover over 40% of the AA population just in one year. Number two is to then work in education and really promote more teaching of AAPI history around the country. Thirdly, in terms of narrative change, I think just a key takeaway this year and in previous years was when we asked people to name a prominent or famous Asian American, three years in a row, number one answer is “I don't know,” number two answer is “Jackie Chan,” who's not Asian American, and number three is “Bruce Lee.” So again, it shows how we're still largely invisible in American society, and yet when we're thought of, it's still in very stereotypical ways. This year, obviously with Everything Everywhere All at Once and incredible programs like Beef, we're seeing greater popularity and acceptance and who knows what one year can, can bring on the narrative change side. And the question we ask ourselves is, who's gonna be the first Asian American to replace Jackie Chan as the most famous, most prominent Asian American in the American psyche. That's super exciting to think about and that's what we're actively working towards to elevate Asian American leaders and stories in the American consciousness.

NIALA: So Norman, from that list, I think it's interesting that we have the first Asian American Vice President, Kamala Harris. Did she not make the list?

NORMAN: Well, actually, this year Kamala Harris did emerge as the third person that was cited the most. She came in at just 1%. Uh, still very low figure, but she has become more visible, and it's encouraging to see that Americans across country do recognize Kamala Harris as an Asian American leader. And so, uh, yeah, she’s number three.

What to expect from the Writers Guild of America strike

TIM BAYSINGER: The streaming era has radically changed how Hollywood does business, and the writers feel as if they've been left behind in the peak TV content boom, which has seen seasons get shorter, and those shows run for fewer seasons. And at the same time, residuals for streaming shows are far less than their broadcasting counterparts. And this was something that writers traditionally have relied on to kind of cover their costs in between jobs. And additionally, the rapid rise of generative AI also has writers concerned that the studios will replace some of their work with machines.

It's important to understand that the impact will be felt in ripples. So not everyone all at once. Late night TV shows like The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, Real Time with Bill Maher and Jimmy Kimmel Live have already gone dark. And shows like Saturday Night Live and real time with Bill Maher are probably gonna follow suit. The next to feel the impact is daytime soap operas, because those shows are usually written and produced much closer to their air date.

Now, if the strike goes into the summer, that will impact the scripted TV shows on broadcast, which could lead to delays for the coming fall TV season. If that happens, I would expect networks to order more reality TV and unscripted shows, because those writers are not part of the WGA. Now, this is what happened during the last writer strike, which lasted a hundred days, from late 2007 to early 2008.

The streaming services and the film studios, those right now are the least impacted because they produce much of their shows and their movies well in advance. So they have a stockpile of content. But again, the longer this goes on, the more likely those industries will also start to feel some of the impact.

NIALA: That’s Axios’s Tim Baysinger.

The Biden administration prepares for an influx at the U.S. - Mexico border.

Niala: One more headline for you today: The Biden Administration is sending 1,500 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Defense announced yesterday. The troops will not interact with migrants or serve as law enforcement, but will help with logistical and administrative roles… The Department of Homeland security requested the additional help because it’s anticipating a surge of migrants and asylum-seekers at the southern border when COVID-19-era restrictions lift on May 11th. Tens of thousands of people were turned away at the border as a result of those restrictions. We’ll keep watching this story.

And finally, we started the show today talking about Asian American visibility. So here’s my question for you this month: who are your Asian American heroes, favorite artists, or scientists? Who are the Asian Americans who bring you joy - and of course I mean besides me! Record a voice memo explaining who and why, which you can email to me at axios dot com or you can text me at (202) 918-4893. You might hear it on the show this month.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening, stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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