Asian Americans fastest-growing racial group in US: Pew research

Racial anxiety underlies much of the political tension in the US.
Racial anxiety underlies much of the political tension in the US.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Asian Americans were the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the United States from 2000 to 2019, with a population projected to pass 35 million by 2060, Pew Research Centre has found based on analysis of US Census Bureau data.

The Asian population in the US grew 81 per cent during that period, from roughly 10.5 million to a record 18.9 million, according to Pew's analysis.

Hispanics saw the second-fastest population growth between 2000 and 2019 at 70 per cent, followed by Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders at 61 per cent.

The nation's black population also grew during this period, albeit at a slower rate of 20 per cent, Pew said.

There was virtually no change in the white population.

The US is getting more diverse. In July 2020, a Brookings Institution analysis of Census data showed that America's white population share declined 10 percentage points between 1980 and 2000, and by 2019, nearly nine more percentage points to 60.1 per cent. By around 2045, white people will themselves be a minority.

Tension

Racial anxiety underlies much of the political tension in the US. A study of 2016 election voter preferences by Professor John Sides of George Washington University, Professor Michael Tesler of the University of California at Irvine and Professor Lynn Vavreck of the University of California at Los Angeles concluded that white voters' preference for Mr Donald Trump, who won by a landslide, was strongly related to concerns that minorities were taking jobs away from whites.

Long running prejudice against Asians has also erupted anew. Pew Research's analysis of the Asian American demographic comes amid a documented rise in incidents of abuse and hate against Asian Americans that on March 18 prompted condemnation from President Joe Biden.

"Too many Asian Americans have been… attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed," the President said.

"Hate and violence often hide in plain sight. And it's often met with silence. That's been true throughout our history, but that has to change - because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act."

Prejudice

A separate Pew Research Centre survey conducted in early March this year - before the fatal shooting of six Asian women and two other people in the Atlanta area on March 16 - found that 70 per cent of Americans believe there is discrimination against Asian people.

And in a June 2020 survey, 31 per cent of Asians reported they had been the subject of slurs or jokes since the Covid-19 outbreak began, and 26 per cent said they had feared someone might threaten or physically attack them because of their race or ethnicity, Pew said.

"The recent violence against Asian Americans is not a new problem," Ms Gloria Lim Steil, a Korean-American who lectures in Literary and Critical Studies at the Pratt Institute told The Straits Times. "It's a continuation, albeit a ratcheting up, of such violence going back to the mid-19th century."

Also, though Asian Americans have been part of the fabric of America since the 1850s, their history is barely known to most Americans, she said.

"Asians are not a monolith. Grouping all Asians together, dismissing the enormous diversity of the Asian diaspora, is part of the problem. Chinese are as different from Koreans and Filipinos as Britons are from the French and Ukrainians."

"When the pandemic hit, Trump's rhetoric exacerbated this perpetual prejudice," Ms Steil said. "People started seeing Asian-Americans as foreigners and targeted them."

Special police squads have been formed in some places to curb attacks on Asians. Volunteers are patrolling Chinatowns in California.

In New York City last week, on an escalator entering Penn Station in the heart of Manhattan, an undercover police officer of Asian descent was verbally abused by a man, 35-year-old Juvian Rodriguez, who said "go back to China before you end up in the (expletive) graveyard" and then threatened to stab him in the face. Rodriguez was arrested.

Also in New York City, police last week arrested Joseph Russo, 27, for three separate attacks against Asian Americans, including two women and a 77-year-old man.