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Most Asian Americans say they face discrimination and are often treated as foreigners

Members of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles drive with signs reading: "#Stop Asian Hate," in a caravan around Koreatown to denounce hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles on March 19, 2021.
Damian Dovarganes
/
AP
Members of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles drive with signs reading: "#Stop Asian Hate," in a caravan around Koreatown to denounce hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles on March 19, 2021.

Almost six in 10 Asian Americans reported they have faced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity, and 63% said they felt not enough attention was given to anti-Asian discrimination, according to a new Pew Research Center survey released Thursday.

"For many Asian Americans, discrimination experiences are not just single events, but instead come in several often-overlapping forms," the report said.

Seventy-eight percent of Asian American adults said they've been treated as a foreigner, even if they were born in the U.S., including having their names mispronounced, being told to go back to their country, being scorned for speaking a language other than English and facing assumptions that they can't speak English.

Anti-Asian hate crimes spiked during the pandemic. The survey showed that 32% of Asian adults say they know another Asian person in the U.S. who has been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity since the pandemic began.

Thirty-seven percent of Asian adults say they've been called an offensive name. Among that group, Asian adults born in the U.S. (57%) reported being called an offensive name almost twice as much as Asian adults who immigrated here (30%).

"In many cases, Asian adults who grew up in the U.S. are more likely than those who immigrated as adults to say they have experienced discrimination incidents," the report said. "This could be for a number of reasons, including recognizing discrimination more than other Asian adults, having more non-Asian friends, or being racialized in America during adolescence."

South Asians were less likely to be called offensive names (29%) than East (41%) and Southeast (39%) Asian Americans. However, more than twice as many South Asian Americans (35%) reported being stopped at security checkpoints than East (14%) and Southeast Asian Americans (15%).

"After 9/11, things changed a lot," said a U.S.-born woman of Indian origin in her early 30s who participated in a 2021 Pew focus group. (Pew did not name the participants.) "I remember my parents putting out American flags everywhere — outside the house, on the mailbox, like wherever they could stick them. And even now, I do get ... constantly pulled over when you're in line at the airport, by TSA."

Among religious groups, Asian American Muslims and Hindus were more likely to be stopped at security checkpoints.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed had not heard the term "model minority" before, but about six in 10 Asian Americans reported facing assumptions associated with the stereotype, such as being well off financially and being academically skilled, particularly at subjects like math and science.

"I feel like Asians are kind of known as the model minority," said one focus group participant, a U.S.-born man of Chinese origin in his early 20s. "That kind of puts us in an interesting position where I feel like we're supposed to excel and succeed in the media, or we're seen in the media as exceeding in all these things as smart. All of us are not by any means."

Additionally, one in five Asian Americans said they experienced workplace discrimination, about one in 10 said their neighbors made life difficult for them because of their race or ethnicity and about 1 in 10 said they were stopped, searched or questioned by police due to their race or ethnicity.

Pew surveyed 7,006 Asian adults living in the U.S., from July 2022 to January 2023. The sample group largely included Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Indian and Vietnamese Americans. Those are the six largest ethnic groups among Asian Americans, and make up about 81% of Asian adults in the U.S.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie