Amid the challenges that come with navigating their dual cultural identity or adapting to American life in general, most Asian Americans proudly call America their home, a new report from Pew Research Center revealed.
The focus groups were further organized into 18 distinct Asian ethnic backgrounds: Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese.
The groups were moderated by members of the participants’ own ethnic groups and conducted in 18 languages. The participants, who were both born inside and outside of the U.S., came from a range of household incomes.
The resulting analysis features an exploration of the experiences and views of Asian Americans in their own voices.
Pan-ethnic labels and identity
Many of the participants expressed that pan-ethnic labels “Asian” or “Asian American” do not encapsulate how they perceive themselves. For them, their identity is influenced by birthplace and may further develop as they grow in life.
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Overall, they share a sense of belonging in the U.S., which they consider to be a place with a diverse set of cultures.
The participants also shared the contentious encounters they have experienced due to ignorance and misinformation about their Asian identity. According to them, they often find themselves frustrated when correcting a stereotype or having to explain their identity to others.
The study also highlighted the attacks and verbal abuse Indian or Pakistani participants received from people who blamed them for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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“One day, somebody put a poster about 9/11 [in front of] my business. He was wearing a gun. … On the poster, it was written ‘you Arabs, go back to your country.’ And then someone came inside. He pointed his gun at me and said ‘Go back to your country.’,” said an immigrant man of Pakistani origin in his mid-60s.
As well, participants shared the racial slurs they were subjected to because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, a friend and I went to celebrate her birthday at a club and like these guys just kept calling us COVID,” said a U.S.-born woman of Korean origin in her early 20s.
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Some Japanese participants shared that their families’ experiences during World War II, which involved forced incarceration and loss of possessions, had long-term effects on their lives.
What it means to be “American”
Some participants said their American identity is about the process of “becoming” culturally American. According to immigrant participants, their experiences in America shaped their views of what it means to be an “American.”
For others, however, their familiarity with American culture and their ability to speak English aided their “becoming” American.
Participants lamented the challenges attached to the “model minority” myth, with some sharing their struggles of not meeting their math and science teachers’ expectations in school. Others shared that some stereotypes worked in their favor, particularly in the job market.
During discussions, immigrant participants further shared that they experienced challenges with adapting to life in the U.S., while U.S.-born participants encountered difficulties navigating their dual cultural identity. However, despite the challenges mentioned, focus group participants still call America their home.
Participants also talked about combining their Asian heritage and culture with their American upbringing. For many, it is important to give back or support their community as well as share their cultural heritage with others.
Pew noted that the study was designed to reflect the voices of less populous Asian American groups whose perspectives and experiences are not often covered in typical survey research.
Pew Research Center’s report was presented in a qualitative essay, along with a documentary, extended video clips and an interactive platform designed to filter participant responses.
Featured Image via Pew Research Center