A 2022 STAATUS Index survey was conducted of 5,235 Americans across varied racial/ethnic groups, demographic characteristics, and geographies in an effort to better understand how perceptions towards Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPIs) evolve over time. (https://staatus-index.s3.amazonaws.com/2023/STAATUS_Index_2023.pdf). There are a lot of really interesting key findings, but for purposes of this post, I want to briefly focus on visibility and acceptance from my personal perspective.
Visibility. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were about 24 million Asian residents in the United States in 2021, yet the STAATUS Index study reports that 26% of respondents were unable to name a famous Asian American. The next two most frequent responses after “I don’t know” over the past three years have been Jackie Chan, a 69 year old Hong Kong actor (not Asian American), and Bruce Lee (who died 50 years ago). This finding aligns with my personal experience. Throughout my life I have been told that I look like Kristi Yamaguchi (a 51 year old Japanese American former figure skater famous in the early 90s), Lucy Liu (a 54 year old Chinese American actor), and more recently, Dr. Pimple Popper (a 52 year old Chinese American dermatologist). I don’t look like any of these women, but it’s a reflection of how few famous Asian women (let alone Asian American women) there are for people to draw comparison. I get it – to many people, I look like a 50 year old Asian woman. Jokes aside, I do believe that visibility is important so that Asian Americans aren’t just portrayed in mainstream American culture and media as Kung Fu martial artists or geisha sex workers (see page 33 of the STAATUS Index study). The fact that we have over fifty-five Asian American attorneys at Duane Morris is a great step to being visible and seen as smart, witty, and business-minded people. Continue reading “What Being Asian American Means to Me”