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Tracing Roots of Racial Attitudes Among Immigrant Chinese Americans

Sat, September 1, 10:00 to 11:30am, Marriott, Regis


The proposed research is part of a larger project that aims to increase understanding of the formation of racial attitudes of Chinese Americans who made the polling news recently for being least racially tolerant compared to other Asian American groups, especially over redistributive issues such as college admissions. This seems to be a puzzling development from opinion trends of the recent past that tend to align the ethnic population with those on the liberal side of politics and policies. What explains the roots or origins of racial attitudes among immigrant Chinese Americans in the Trump era? Whereas I shall analyze a large scale, nationally representative survey data (the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-election Survey) to identify the contours and patterns of racial attitudes and opinions among the China-born, the focus of this paper is to analyze face-to-face interview data gathered from a small but selective group of undergraduate students from China who are currently attending a US public university on the West Coast.

Hailed from a largely racially homogenous homeland, and being labeled as part of the “model-minority” community, Asia-born Chinese Americans have had an intriguing relationship with other nonwhite Americans who may not be as socioeconomically successful, but may be more advantaged in terms of cultural and political status in U.S. society. How do college students from China think of issues of race, race relations, and notions of racial equality and justice in multiracial America? What explains their patterns of racial attitudes and opinions? These are the general research questions. Specifically, how do Chinese international students think of America as a society of equal opportunities (such as in securing higher education and good jobs)? Can this principle of equality apply to all racial groups or that there are racial differences and why? Their responses to questions on their ethnic identity and both pre-migration socialization experiences (such as learning/knowledge of negative/positive racial stereotypes of US Blacks and Latinos) and post-migration personal encounters with Blacks and other US minorities will be used to analyze student attitudes toward policies that aim to remove racial inequalities between whites and nonwhites. The results from this qualitative study can be used to help interpret, in turn, patterns observed in the large-scale opinion survey to advance understanding of the roots of racial attitudes among immigrants from China.