JACL Dissatisfied with Pew Report on Asian Americans

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WASHINGTON —  The Japanese American Citizens League and other Asian Pacific American organizations are dissatisfied with the June 19 report titled “The Rise of Asian Americans” conducted by the Pew Research Center. The report can be found here.

“While we commend the Pew Research Center for undertaking this critical research on Asian Americans, we hope readers won’t mistake these findings as all-encompassing of the entire AAPI community,” the JACL said in a statement. “Asian Americans make up 5.6% of the U.S. population and include over 45 different ethnicities speaking over 100 different dialects. While our community reflects diversity, this research does not; instead, it sweeps Asian Americans into one broad group and paints our community as exceptionally successful without any challenges.

“This study perpetuates false stereotypes and the model minority. The JACL strongly advocates for further research and analysis specifically regarding disaggregated data collection. “

“Asian Americans have battled stereotypes that have ranged from a menacing force to a picture-perfect model minority,” said JACL National Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida. “The reality is that none of these representations are accurate, and they ignore the socioeconomic and cultural challenges faced by the many subgroups that are a part of the Asian American population. The myths have created a competitive disadvantage in accessing funding and services for the API community. The JACL supports the call for research that is valid and encompasses all API’s.”

Also expressing concern was OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans), which said: “In the report, shallow analysis based on self-report data of Asian Americans propagates the ‘model minority’ stereotype in the very initial stages of its findings, stating: ‘Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.’

“While the consensus of less than 4,000 Asian Americans who had participated in this survey responded see the community as being on an upward trajectory by most socio-economic indicators, they do not represent the over 14.5 Asian Americans throughout the country.

“What is particularly disturbing is that these types of broad generalizations can have serious implications in public policy, civil rights, as well as perpetuation of bias, discrimination, and racial tension between communities of color. Even though the study fills a void for more statistics and information on the APA community, the framing of the contextual data in the report is troublesome.”

“We are deeply concerned with the Pew Research Center’s report on Asian Americans,” said OCA Executive Director Tom Hayashi. “It is difficult to take the data at face value when the questions seem to play too perfectly into reinforcing the stereotypes of Asian Americans … the validity of the results are highly suspect in terms of how much we can truly rely on the self-report data cited in the results.

“While subjects can respond to questions on the phone, their attitudes, behaviors, or conditions faced by Asian Americans can be very different from that of the research results. The disagreements and doubts from the community about the survey is based on the incongruence with what we see in the community.”

“Bimodal immigration, cultural as well as linguistic isolation must be one of many factors that should inform the data analysis to get a more accurate understanding of the community,” the OCA statement continued.

“Asian American organizations should also be consulted in this type of research, and not just the scholars who at times have been known to have blinders or biases though an unintentionally supported series of self-fulfilling prophecies. We urge that investigators start with grounding the design of the research with a specific objective in mind, i.e. what value might be served to ask what Asian Americans think about the strictness of their own parenting or of their counterparts?

“We believe that not all Asian Americans command the highest-income or are best-educated, yet we face one of the longest period of unemployment when we lose our jobs relative to other ethnic groups. And although we may be the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, we continue to face challenges posed by unfair immigration policies.

“The assertions that our community enjoys an exaggerated level of privilege are simply and unfortunately not the case. We call on accurate and responsible research that reflects the complexity of the community and does not solely rely on surveys that play into Asian American stereotypes.”

Rep Judy Chu (D-El Monte) said:  “Today, the Pew Research Center released a report that highlights some of the positive trends of the six largest subgroups within the Asian Pacific American community. As the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., these findings reinforce the fact that Asian Pacific Americans are a rising force that cannot be ignored.

“However, as chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), I would strongly caution against using this data to validate the ‘model minority’ myth. Our community is one of stark contrasts, with significant disparities within and between various subgroups. The ‘Asian Pacific American’ umbrella includes over 45 distinct ethnicities speaking over 100 language dialects, and many of the groups that were excluded from this report are also the ones with the greatest needs.

“For instance, while the Pew report touts the community’s success in educational attainment, this claim also ignores the fact that over a third of Hmong, Cambodian, and Laotian Americans do not even hold a high school diploma. While the Asian Pacific American community should celebrate its accomplishments, we must also avoid drawing oversimplified conclusions that ignore the many real challenges facing our diverse population.

“To better understand our growing community, we need to move beyond stereotypical narratives and pursue more disaggregated data collection. The Pew Research Center’s report highlights this important need, and I hope it will serve as a wake-up call for government, academia, and others to invest in this research.”

Journalistic Concerns

The Asian American Journalists Association shares the concerns expressed by civil rights organizations, which is why it believes that newsrooms need more AAPI journalists to effectively interpret studies like Pew’s report and to present accurate and fair information to the public.

The study says Asian Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the country — 5.8 percent of the nation’s population, up from less than 1 percent in 1965, when the modern immigration wave from Asia began — yet a recent survey by the American Society of News Editors showed that overall newsroom representation by journalists of color, including Asian Americans, fell for the fourth consecutive year.

“Pew’s research reinforces the importance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a segment of our society that newsrooms need to pay attention to,” said AAJA National President Doris Truong, a multiplatform editor at The Washington Post. “It was disappointing to see a lack of diverse perspectives — especially from major news networks — in covering this story. AAJA is well positioned to help hiring managers find talented journalists who can connect with increasingly diverse communities.

“Without the benefit of diverse voices to help educate within the newsroom, some news organizations risk losing credibility with their audience. Not only is diversity in hiring the right thing to do because it mirrors the changing complexion of our nation’s cities, it makes economic sense. Hiring journalists who can speak to a 21st-century audience — one in which people of color will be the majority — allows news organizations to remain relevant.”

 

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