GUEST COLUMN, John Richard Schrock, Education Frontlines
A survey by the Pew Research Center released May 8, 2023 profiles the current attitudes of Asian American citizens. The definition of “Asian American” not only includes those with Confucian-heritage cultures (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese) but also Filipino, Indian, and mixed heritages.
Those born outside the U.S. are older and “often have stronger ties to the origin group than those born in the U.S. do.” The number stating that all or most of their friends in the U.S. were of same ethnicity varied: Vietnamese (55 percent), Indian (55 percent), Chinese (51 percent), Korean (50 percent) and Japanese (34 percent).
About 86 percent of Asian adults were “...comfortable if a close family member marries someone who is not Asian....” The Pew report notes that “...Asian Americans have some of the highest intermarriage rates among U.S. adults” and this has “...changed little since the 1990s.”
There is an obvious reaction to the recent anti-Asian rhetoric of the last two U.S. administrations in Pew data indicating “one-in-five Asian adults have hidden some aspect of their heritage from non-Asians.” –For those 50 to 64, only 12 percent. –For those 65 and older, only 5 percent reported hiding some aspect of their cultural identity. But for Asians 18-to-29, this grows to 39 percent. A similar response occurs where only 16 percent of third generation Asian Americans hide some aspect of their heritage, while 38 percent of second generation Asians do so. This concern is also greater among those with college degrees.
U.S. political party affiliation varies. A modest majority of Vietnamese heritage identify Republican while the others lean Democratic. However, a dramatic 88 percent of Asian Americans in the 18-29 age bracket lean Democrat, with the percent increasing with level of college education. [Asian American students complete higher education at rates far in excess of all other ethnic groups, being the “overperforming” minority (not discussed in this report).]
The report also probed the Asian American view of the American dream. “U.S. adults overall are slightly more likely than Asian adults to say they have achieved the American dream (30 percent) or that it is out of reach for them (31 percent) but less likely to say they are on their way to achieving it (37 percent).”
One major “take away” from this survey is that the youngest Asian Americans are feeling a much greater anti-Asian attitude from U.S. society at large, a recent change documented by other limited surveys. This negativity accelerated under the previous U.S. administration and has not receded. Anti-Asian prejudice has a long history, as indicated in this report that assessed the Asian American’s understanding of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese World War II internment, and other events.
I can add that anti-China sentiment increased during the Wen Ho Lee incident of 1999 under President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno. Wen Ho Lee was a Taiwanese-American scientist who worked for the University of California Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and was falsely accused of stealing secrets. In 2006, he received a $1.6 million settlement. At that time, I had two former student teachers who had been appointed to teach high school biology at the Hsinchu Science City in Taiwan. They reported to me how the Wen Ho Lee episode in the U.S. revealed such severe anti-Asian sentiment in America that a large number of Taiwan-American scientists quit and returned with their families to Hsinchu, a reaction never reported in our U.S. press.
In these last six years, anti-China and anti-Asian prejudice has risen to new levels. Increasing numbers of Asian and especially Chinese American researchers are responding to this new negativity. Sun Xin, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania department of mathematics is a joint winner of the Rollo Davidson Prize. But he will return to China to work at Peking University. He is not alone. Over 1,400 U.S.-based ethnic Chinese scientists switched from American to Chinese institutions in 2021.
In 2020, then-U.S. president Donald Trump cancelled long-standing educational exchange programs with China, including the Fulbright China program which has exchanged scholars since the late 1940s. It remains cancelled under President Biden. The Fulbright program had sent over 3,500 Americans to China. Today, over 1.3 million Chinese students are currently studying abroad in more than 110 countries worldwide. They then return to a China that fully understands other countries. In contrast, we do not.
The Pew survey describes the perspective of our own Asian Americans toward the U.S. It reveals how it is now important for Americans to examine our attitudes toward this portion of our population.