Dec 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Poll: Discrimination against Asian Americans is rampant but ignored

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Asian Americans continue to face widespread discrimination, which is exacerbated by fears that the broader public doesn't particularly care, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

Why it matters: Asian Americans are among the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the country. But Asian Americans have historically been "invisible" in society, Norman Chen, CEO of The Asian American Foundation, a national nonprofit with offices in New York and San Francisco, told Axios,

By the numbers: In the largest survey of its kind, Pew asked more than 7,000 adults of Asian descent about their experiences with racism and discrimination in the U.S.

  • 57% say discrimination is a major problem. And an even bigger majority — 63% — say the issues they face receive "too little attention."

Context: The U.S. government treated immigrants from Asia as a kind of "unassimilable" outsider, Karthick Ramakrishnan, a University of California Riverside professor, previously told Axios' Niala Boodhoo.

  • It's no surprise, then, that 78% of Asian adults in the Pew study say they've been treated as a foreigner in some way, even if they were born in the U.S.

What they're saying: Culturally and historically, Asian Americans have also been focused on keeping their heads down, trying to set down roots, build shelter and make a living based on the "bottom of the Maslow's hierarchy of needs," Chen said. That leaves less time to get active in societal issues.

  • And because there are so many different cultures within the Asian American community, there previously hasn't been unity, he added.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Shawna Chen: While violent hate crimes drew headlines during the pandemic, Pew's latest study reinforces that Asian Americans also face stereotypes and everyday acts of discrimination that make life harder even if they're not crimes.

Between the lines: "Historical events not only shaped Asian Americans' experiences with discrimination — such as the backlash against Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians after the 9/11 terrorist attacks [and] the increased violence against East and Southeast Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic — but also the attention paid to them," Neil Ruiz, head of new research initiatives at Pew, told Axios.

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