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Survey: 3 in 4 Chinese Americans face racism

Often stereotyped as 'model minority', they need better support from policies

Demonstrators condemn racism against Asians at a rally in Washington, DC, on June 25. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Nearly 3 out of 4 Chinese Americans have experienced racial discrimination in the past 12 months, and more than half of them are worried about their safety relating to hate crimes, according to a new national survey.

The survey was conducted by the nonprofit Committee of 100 and Columbia University to look at the health, economic and sociopolitical conditions of today's Chinese American population.

Chinese Americans make up one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the US, reaching 5.5 million in 2021, which accounts for about 1.7 percent of the total US population.

"Our mission is to use the data to inform policymakers and the public and help develop timely and responsive policies, programs and services," said Qin Gao, lead researcher of the project and a professor of social policy and social work at Columbia University, New York, at a webinar releasing the key findings of the survey.

The "State of Chinese Americans" survey, which Gao said is the first and largest of its kind, gathered information from nearly 6,500 participants across the US.

It found 27 percent of respondents experienced bias or hate incidents in the past 12 months; 51 percent experienced everyday discrimination in their daily lives, and 64 percent said they experienced racism-related vigilance.

With the three sets of data combined, the researchers found about three-fourths of Chinese Americans experienced at least one form of racial discrimination or vigilance.

Among the respondents, 9 percent have been physically intimidated or assaulted, and 7 percent have had property vandalized or damaged. Fifty-five percent are worried about their safety relating to hate crimes or harassment.

The survey also found that Chinese Americans are active political participants, with 83 percent of them voting. Respondents identified racism, crime, gun control and the economy as the four most important issues facing the US. Most respondents, or 82 percent, agreed that the US should build a collaborative economic relationship with China.

While often stereotyped as a "model minority", many Chinese Americans face disadvantages or hardships in health and economics and need better support from policies and services, according to the survey.

Nearly 1 in 4 Chinese Americans are at moderate or severe risk of mental illness when asked about their psychological distress, and 10 percent reported a household income below $15,000; 9 percent reported experiencing food or bills hardship in the past 12 months.

Chinese Americans remain underrepresented in politics and policy and underserved in healthcare, education and social services, and the survey brings "a critical and deeper understanding of the real experiences of Chinese Americans, not the stereotypical assumptions assigned to a 'model minority' group", said Gary Locke, chair of the Committee of 100 and former US ambassador to China.

Melissa Begg, dean of the Columbia School of Social Work, said, "This survey will deepen our understanding of the many factors that influence the well-being of Chinese Americans today, which will shed light on many policies and practices that result in barriers to opportunity, experiences of discrimination, and increased risk of mental distress in this often overlooked and understudied population.

Human suffering

"Much of human suffering is actually caused by our own policies. But if we created those policies, then we can fix them."

In New York City, 18 percent of the 8.6 million population are Asian Americans, and 45 percent of the Asian Americans are Chinese, said Wayne Ho, president and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, an Asian American social services agency.

"While we're the fastest-growing group in New York… we don't get a fair share of the resources. We get less than 1.5 percent of all government social service contract dollars, and less than 0.5 percent of all philanthropic dollars," Ho said.

"Government officials need to know that there has to be better policies that respond to our community. We need to find the most persuasive data points in this research and keep reminding decision-makers at the federal, state and city levels that this is the state of the Chinese American community."