Asian Americans have expressed that they have complicated feelings toward the pan-ethnic label, according to a Pew Research Centre survey published Tuesday (2 August).
The analysis on the experiences of Asian Americans, based on numerous focus group discussions, highlighted the shortcomings of the term "Asian American," how people of Asian descent will often be treated or viewed as foreign even if they were born in the United States, and the effects of harmful Asian American stereotypes.
Respondents expressed a common sentiment that when they are referred to as "Asian American", the "Asia" part implies that they have less of an active voice and more of an imposed one, reports The Hill.
"Coming to a big country like the United States, when people ask where we are from … there are some people who have no idea about Bhutan, so we end up introducing ourselves as being Asian," said a respondent.
For the analysis, Pew researchers last fall created 66 focus groups with a total of 264 participants organized along 18 distinct Asian ethnic group origins.
Focus group members had a range of household incomes as well as ancestral or recent countries of origin including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Chian, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kora and Nepal.
Many respondents also noted how considering Asians a monolithic group is becoming more common since the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The first thing people think of me as is just Chinese. 'You guys are just Chinese.' I'm not the only one who felt this after the Covid-19 outbreak. 'Whether you're Japanese, Korean, or Southeast Asian, you're just Chinese to Americans. I should avoid you.' I've felt this way before, but I think I've felt it a bit more after the Covid-19 outbreak," one respondent said.
"This study aims to expand the depth and breadth of our understanding of racial and ethnic identity by asking Asian Americans to describe their attitudes and experiences in their own words, without preset response options," Associate Director of Race and Ethnicity at the Pew Research Center Neil G Ruiz said in a Q and A published with the analysis findings.
Focus group members mainly focused on their experiences living in the United States, immigration and refugee experiences. US-born participants shared how their experiences in school shaped their identity and the pressures to "fit a certain stereotype."
Among the analysis' findings, one major takeaway was the damage caused by the "model minority" myth associated with Asian Americans.
"As an Asian person, I feel like there's that stereotype that Asian students are high achievers academically. They're good at math and science. … I was a pretty mediocre student, and math and science were actually my weakest subjects, so I feel like it's either way you lose," said one focus group participant, a US-born woman of Korean descent in her late 20s.
"Teachers expect you to fit a certain stereotype and if you're not, then you're a disappointment, but at the same time, even if you are good at math and science, that just means that you're fitting a stereotype. It's actually your own achievement, but your teachers might think, 'Oh, it's because they're Asian,' and that diminishes your achievement."