Southeast Asian Americans face the brunt of racist attacks among Asians in U.S., new study finds

Southeast Asian Americans face assault, verbal abuse and threats more than any other Asian American group, a new report by advocacy group The Asian American Foundation revealed.

The report, which surveyed 6,200 people across ethnicities, said 32% of Asian Americans nationwide were called a slur over the past 12 months, and 29% were verbally harassed or abused. Those numbers were markedly higher for Southeast Asian Americans, of whom 40% were called a slur and 38% faced verbal abuse.

While many Americans believe the Covid-fueled wave of anti-Asian hate has passed, TAAF Chief Executive Norman Chen said that’s very much not the case.

Anti-Asian hate crimes dropped from 2021 to 2022, but Asian Americans surveyed say their daily realities are not free from its effects. In fact, 61% said hate continued to increase over the last year.

More than a quarter of Asian Americans say they feel unsafe on public transportation, and 41% think they will be the victim of a physical attack in the next five years.

“Our community continues to be very fearful, concerned and on guard,” Chen said. “People are still very concerned about going out on the streets and doing their daily activities; going to the store, going to school, going to work.”

He said it’s hard to give one reason why Southeast Asians are feeling the brunt of this hate, but he thinks financial status might play a role. A 2020 report by the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center said that all Southeast Asian ethnic groups have a lower per capita income than the average in the U.S.

“It depends on socioeconomics,” Chen said. “Where these people are living, where they’re commuting, where they’re working. That may be a factor as well.”

Community members are still changing their behavior to prevent violence, he said, including refraining from speaking their mother tongues outside their homes and avoiding public transit.

The TAAF report found that just 38% of Asian Americans feel they belong in the U.S., compared to 70% of white Americans. Even less feel like their racial identities are accepted in the U.S, at 18%. When asked why, respondents said anti-Asian hate is the top reason. But the lack of representation at high levels across industries was another top factor.

“People don’t see Asian Americans in leadership positions in America enough,” Chen said. “The lack of senior representation in government, in the Supreme Court, in TV and movies, in culture and sports. That also creates this lack of belonging because you feel like, ‘Hey, my opportunities are limited.’”

The fact that the American public seems to be forgetting about anti-Asian hate and racism is concerning, he said, and community members are facing their anxiety in silence. He hopes people will start paying attention.

“There’s a lack of awareness of what the Asian American community continues to go through, literally on a daily basis,” he said.

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