Recent polling underscores the prevalence of xenophobia and racism targeted at Asian communities in Oregon.
A survey of Asian Oregonians found 49% were subjected to racial slurs or degrading language against them or a family member, while 36% said they had witnessed racist epithets or language directed at them or a family member on social media.
The Oregon Values & Beliefs Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public research organization, partnered with culturally specific community organizations, including the Asian Health and Service Center, to gauge prevalence and attitudes toward race-based harassment and hate crimes in the state. The survey, conducted from October 2021 to January, found that in most instances, roughly half or more than half of the nearly 550 Asian residents surveyed reported race-based harassment.
Surveys also showed 19% of respondents said they or a family member were threatened with physical violence because of their race. Another 15% had been denied service because of their race and 8% said theirs or a family member's property had been marked by racist graffiti. The same percentage of respondents reported they or a family member were assaulted or injured because of race.
"It's maddening that the perpetrators often experience no consequences for their harassment," one respondent told surveyors. "After someone harassed me and my entire family while we were out shopping (racial epithets, threw an apple at us, etc.), I only felt empowered after buying pepper spray. Even if you walk away from a situation physically unharmed, the fear and ANGER that you experience afterwards often goes unresolved and just festers."
The OVBC data indicates that among 303 Asian respondents, the overwhelming majority never reported the bias incident or hate crime. Those who did file police reports were most often not referred to support services, according to survey results.
While most who were polled said their experiences haven't caused them to limit their time in public or limit their time engaging with friends, 33% of 514 Asian residents said they do reduce their time spent shopping or seeing friends in public and another 39% said they worry their children will be victims of a hate crime or harassment.
"I'm concerned and take extra precautions when I'm out and about," one survey respondent said. "I'm more alert to my surroundings and keep a distance from people, and limit going out after dark."
Those who participated in the polling say more awareness of race-based bias and hate crimes is needed throughout the state, as well as expanded support services.
Holden Leung is the executive director of the Asian Health and Services Center. Leung said the issues underscored in the recent surveys are "not a new problem."
"Our community have been targeted by hate crime and harassment for decades but this recent dramatic increase is disproportionately affecting Asian communities, generating fear, fostering isolation and creating a need for mental health services for which we do not currently have the capacity to provide," Leung said. "There are many agencies working to address this issue but we all lack resources and are beyond capacity. This is a community problem that requires a community response and additional resources."
To report a bias crime, call the non-emergency bias response hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS. Additionally, Oregon has a bias response emergency fund to assist victims of hate crimes and bias incidents in their recovery. The fund pays up to $1,000 for costs incurred within 90 days of a bias incident or bias crime that a survivor is otherwise unable to afford. For more information, visit the Oregon Department of Justice.
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