About 40% of Asian and Black Americans say people have acted uncomfortable around them because of their race or ethnicity since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
And nearly a third of Asian Americans (31%) say they’ve been subject to racist slurs or jokes, the study found, while 26% say they’ve feared someone might physically attack them.
“Asians and Blacks in particular have really seen a shift in their experience since the pandemic began,” said Neil Ruiz, the center’s associate director of global migration and demography and the lead author of the study.
White and Hispanic Americans were much less likely to report negative experiences based on their race or ethnicity during the pandemic, Ruiz said.
Protests may have played a role
The study, released on Wednesday, was based on a survey of 9,654 US adults from the center’s American Trends Panel conducted from June 4-10. At that time, Ruiz said, protests over the death of George Floyd were also surging across the country.
While the questions focused on the coronavirus, the protests and reactions to them may have factored into the results, Ruiz said.
For example, Ruiz said, 51% of Black adults said more people had expressed support for them because of their race or ethnicity during this period — more than any other racial or ethnic group.
“And in particular, young Black adults say they’ve seen the support versus those who are older, so that’s interesting,” Ruiz said. “It could be something that was going on because of the protests. And younger people are probably out more than those who are older.”
Worries about wearing masks
Another key finding in the study: Many Black and Asian Americans worry they’ll be eyed with suspicion if they wear a mask in public.
But a majority of them still are wearing face coverings.
“About four-in-ten Black Americans (42%) and 36% of Asian Americans say they worry a great deal or a fair amount that other people might be suspicious of them because of their race or ethnicity if they wear a mask or face covering when in stores or other businesses. About a quarter of Hispanic adults (23%) and just 5% of white adults say they worry about this,” the study said.
“Despite these concerns, majorities of Black (69%) and Asian (80%) adults — as well as white (62%) and Hispanic (74%) adults — say they’ve worn a mask or a face covering all or most of the time in the past month when out in stores or other businesses.”
People think racist views are being expressed more often
Overall, according to the study, 4 in 10 US adults say it’s become more common for the public to express racist or racially insensitive views toward Asian Americans since the pandemic began. And 30% of US adults think racist views about Black Americans are more common than before the pandemic.
“Something happened since the coronavirus outbreak, where the general public thinks there’s more racist views towards Black and Asian Americans,” Ruiz said.
The study notes that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing major racial or ethnic group in the United States. They make up 6% of the US population, while Hispanics make up 18% of the population and Black Americans make up 12% of the population.