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How Anti-Asian Racism Fuels Discrimination & Violence

A picture of people protesting in Manhattan against Anti-Asian racism and violence
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Associated Press
People take part in a rally against hate and the rising violence against Asians living in the U.S. at Columbus Park in the Chinatown section of the Manhattan borough of New York, on Sunday, March 21, 2021.

SMU professor Priscilla Lui studies racial discrimination and intercultural contact. She talks about recent incidents of hate against Asian Americans.

From the recent brutal attacks that killed eight people in Atlanta to the thousands of instances of discrimination in the past year, anti-Asian hate crime is on the rise in the United States.

Priscilla Lui is a professor of psychology at SMU who specializes in racial discrimination.

She talked with KERA's Justin Martin.

On what's behind the dramatic rise of anti-Asian violence:

A lot of issues, but probably the most is Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have always had this cultural, negative stereotypes against them in a sense that they have diseases, and there's inferiority about their cultural practices and behaviors.

So I think that has always been in a backdrop. And when the pandemic came about the public, the media, as well as the last administration's rhetoric about, I don't want to repeat those languages, but sort of referring to the, the COVID pandemic and that the virus is tied to an Asian country. I think that's kind of scapegoating.

And like you mentioned, the rates are probably reported as well because Asian and Americans and Pacific Islanders historically has not only been in the conversation about race and racism, as well as kind of this model minority myth, that in a lot of ways discouraged a lot of people wanting to come out in the open and reporting these issues because of worries of retaliation and not wanting to stick out their neck.

On the racism and violence Asian Americans endure versus other people of color:

A lot of the assumptions with Asian Americans have been they're perpetual foreigners, and a lot of their practices are inferior or just weird or they're here to take our jobs.

So those kinds of undertones, those messages are more unique to Asian-Americans. Whereas other racist beliefs and attitudes of prejudice toward other groups might vary because of historical treatments and their history is in the U.S.

For example, with African American individuals, a lot of times they're seen as troublemakers, they're seen as criminals or uneducated, similar for Native Americans. So I think that behaviors may not differ, but sometimes maybe the perceptions of Asian Americans versus maybe other ethnic minority groups or people of color in the U.S. can vary. But nevertheless, we just know that racism and discrimination have negative impacts on minority health.

On Asian American women reporting more hate incidents than men:

I think it's probably a combination of several things.

One is Asian American women; they're at the intersection of sexism, as well as racism and Asian American women they oftentimes face these sometimes quote-unquote positive stereotypes. And usually they're still demeaning stereotypes that they're exotic and that they are prostitutes.

I think that that image, or even the dragon lady's sort of stereotypes are somewhat unique to Asian American women that Asian American men may not experience.

On what can be done to address Anti-Asian discrimination:

I think it really needs to occur at various levels. So at a cultural level change the messaging that we no longer perpetuate these stereotypes; a narrow caricature of Asian men and women and others, and also representation in the media, representation in different spaces, including the workplace and in education.

I think this will shed light on Asian Americans that they are individuals, that are humanized. They are not just these stereotypic images that we think of.

At an institutional level. I think as researchers it's important to continue having funding and other resources allocated to document and keep having these reports of the needs and the challenges facing Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Priscilla Lui is a professor of psychology at SMU

Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Justin Martin at You can follow Justin on Twitter @MisterJMart.

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Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.