Discrimination Incidents Against African Americans Spike During COVID-19 Pandemic

Researchers at the Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California aimed to quantify the level of discrimination faced by Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also sought to see if discrimination against African Americans had spiked during the crisis.

The researchers surveyed a large group of Americans between March 10 and March 21. They asked survey respondents whether they felt threatened or harassed, or perceived others as being afraid of them due to people thinking they might have the coronavirus. We also asked if they were treated with less courtesy and respect than others, or if they received poorer service at restaurants and stores due to the same reason.

They found that Asian and African Americans were more likely to experience at least one form of discrimination and unfair treatment due to other people thinking they might have the coronavirus, compared to other racial and ethnic groups, albeit the overall prevalence is currently low. Our data show that 14 percent of Asians and 10 percent of non-Hispanic Blacks had such experiences, as opposed to 4 percent of non-Hispanic Whites, 6 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of people in other racial and ethnic groups.

Comparing this new data to a similar survey conducted in February 2019, the researchers found that in the most recent period when the virus was spreading across the United States, the odds were four times higher for Asians and almost three times higher for non-Hispanic Blacks than non-Hispanic Whites to have reported perceived discrimination.

The authors write that “what is striking in our findings is both that perceived discrimination in the United States persists, even during this global health crisis, and further, that a new form of discrimination and maltreatment resulting from fear of infection is rearing its ugly head and targeting both Black Americans and Asian Americans at an alarming level.”

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