42% of Americans can’t name a famous Asian American — despite the vice president being one

May 18, 2021, 7:31 PM UTC

Forty-two percent of Americans can’t name a single famous Asian American, according to a survey by Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH).

The survey, based on responses from 2,766 U.S. residents between March 29 and April 14, gives a new meaning to Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month.

When asked to name a famous Asian American, the top response — with 42% of the vote —was “don’t know,” followed by actor Jackie Chan, who is not a U.S. citizen, in second and deceased actor and martial artist Bruce Lee in third.

Only 2% of respondents named Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian American, Black, and female U.S. vice president.

Despite what the survey suggests, there were many high-profile Asian Americans mentioned in the news this year and last year. Besides the vice president, this list includes New York City Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang, Tiger Woods, and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Respondents to the LAAUNCH survey may not have been able to name famous Asian Americans, yet approximately half of them said Asian Americans are overrepresented or fairly represented in top positions within American companies, politics, and media.

In reality, Asian Americans are underrepresented in leadership positions in all of these fields. In politics, for example, David Ige of Hawaii is the only Asian American or Pacific Islander governor out of 50 states (not including U.S. territories). Only two senators out of 100, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, are of Asian descent. Yet Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up about 7% of the U.S. population.

Although 48% disagreed, 20% of people surveyed said Asian Americans are more loyal to their countries of ancestry than to the United States. Thirty percent were neutral.

The othering of Asian Americans has been significantly more prominent in recent months, as this community faces increased verbal and physical attacks, which have proved deadly and damaging.

Many groups advocating for Asian Americans, such as Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change and the Asian American Foundation, were formed in light of the increase in attacks and discrimination against this community.

A report by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found that anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in 16 of America’s largest cities and counties rose 164% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period last year.

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.