Many Asian Americans still fear harassment and attacks, survey says

April 27, 2021, 3:26 PM UTC

Abe Ng, CEO of Sushi Maki, was outside of one of his restaurants in Coral Gables, Fla. Checking up on his employees when a man walked up to him and started screaming.

At first, Ng was confused. He looked around to verify the man was shouting at him, when he started yelling racist, anti-Asian slurs at Ng and blaming he and “his people” for the COVID-19 pandemic.

He backed away from the man slowly and, luckily, avoided a physical altercation. The verbal attack, though, shocked him.

“It definitely kind of rattles you,” Ng told Fortune. “At first you’re upset, but then there’s this shame of, ‘What did I do to cause this?’”

One-third of Asian Americans fear threats or physical attacks, according to a new survey released by Pew Research Center. Eighty-one percent of the 352 Asian adults surveyed said violence against Asians in the U.S. is increasing.

Although Asian Americans and other people of color have been subject to racism, violence, and harassment in the U.S. for many years, attacks on Asian people have escalated since the pandemic started. Last month, a man killed eight people, six of which were Asian women, at three spas in the Atlanta area and told the police he carried out the shooting to eliminate his “temptation.”

Forty-five percent of Asian respondents to the Pew survey said they were harassed, experienced people act uncomfortable around them, or feared being harassed because they are of Asian descent.

The harassment is not limited to Asian Americans of Chinese descent, nor does class or occupation play a factor. Ng is a Cornell graduate and first-generation Chinese American who started his business in Florida more than 20 years ago.

None of that mattered to the man who harassed him.

“When you’re alone on the street it doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you have,” Ng said.

Of the Asian adults surveyed by Pew, 32% said someone has expressed support for them since the start of the pandemic. Ng said he didn’t tell his parents about the incident when it happened last March because he didn’t want them to worry. He did, however, get support from his friends.

For fear of being seen as getting political or having an agenda, he and his company usually don’t make statements about national news or political issues, Ng said. With the rise in violence against Asian Americans, many large companies have made statements and CEOs have spoken publicly on the issue.

Ng said he has started to speak publicly about discrimination against Asians as well and his company has posted about stopping Asian hate on social media.

“We can do our own little part in our organization to really talk about this issue,” Ng said. “We have that platform, with our guests, and on our social media.”

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