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1 in 4 Asian Americans recently feared their household being targeted, poll finds

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There's a new poll out by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The poll finds that 1 in 4 Asian Americans feared in the past few months that their household would be attacked or threatened because of their race or ethnicity. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of Native American and Black households said they were also worried.

NPR's Leila Fadel has this report.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: This year in the Bay Area in Northern California, there's been an uptick in violence against Asian Americans - A 64-year-old grandma assaulted and robbed, a 52-year-old Asian American woman shot in the head with a flare gun. And for Lisa Liu, it's all felt...

LISA LIU: That's, like, too close to home. Honestly, like, during the height of the pandemic, it didn't really feel safe for me to go outside. And I was actually pregnant for most of the pandemic, so that was especially scary - like, the thought of me going anywhere and being attacked and, you know, anything happening to my baby.

FADEL: The attacks in her area are reflective of the nation. Last year, the FBI recorded the highest number of hate crimes in over a decade. For Asian Americans, the attacks came with the pandemic and the rhetoric from the Trump administration. Again, Lisa Liu.

LIU: Trump calling it the China virus - that's when I felt like life changed. And honestly, I don't want to venture out to any areas that are not diverse. And, like, even in San Francisco and Oakland, I wouldn't walk anywhere alone.

FADEL: Mary Findling is the assistant director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program, which conducted the poll.

MARY FINDLING: What's different about our poll is that we asked about your personal fears, and we were shocked that 1 in 4 Asian Americans and around 1 in 5 Black and Native Americans say that in the past few months, they've feared that someone might threaten or physically attack their household because of their race or ethnicity.

FADEL: Based on the data, she says, for white people, crime may seem rare or random.

FINDLING: But if you're not white, what we've found is it's not random or rare at all. And this is really capturing people's everyday lived experiences. And just 1 in 4 is a lot of people who are looking over their shoulders in fear.

FADEL: Manju Kulkarni is the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate. She says there are the high-profile incidents, like the horrific killings of Asian American women in Atlanta this spring. But there are also the everyday occurrences that many Asian Americans are dealing with that are scary.

MANJU KULKARNI: They're refused service at a grocery store or at a coffee shop where, you know, they're worried about even just being verbally harassed.

FADEL: Asian Americans have been depicted as the perpetual foreigner across centuries, she says, treated as the other and then scapegoated. That's happening with the coronavirus.

Now, for Lisa Liu, who we met earlier - she's the new mom who feared leaving her house because she's Asian American - before last year, she dealt with discrimination, but she didn't fear for her physical safety like she does now. For Victoria, though - she's 58, a Black woman - she says she's had that feeling as long as she can remember because she's been targeted before.

VICTORIA: Because of my race and also even more especially because of my gender - that I'm already a target as being seen weak and then the color of your skin - that you will not possibly report it. You will possibly not be believed.

FADEL: She's only using her first name for privacy. She's a survivor of sexual assault.

And for Chris in North Dakota - he's Native American - he also worries about threats or attacks. He spends most of his time on the reservation where he works and takes care of his brother. He only wants to use his first name, worried about repercussions. He says, when he's off the reservation, he's been feeling growing anger from Trump supporters.

CHRIS: Most people are really friendly here, but there are some people that brazenly discuss not wearing masks in public and discuss immigrants and discuss Native Americans to each other while they're in the store around.

FADEL: Offensive things, like Native Americans are lazy or there are too many Black immigrants in town - so he worries, and he keeps to himself.

Leila Fadel, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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