Asian-American and Pacific Islander women ages 50 and older are flexing their political muscle — and overwhelmingly want President Joe Biden’s administration to work toward ending discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and other factors amid a pandemic-era surge in anti-Asian hate crimes, a new study says.

Seven in 10 Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women 50 and older say anti-AAPI racism and hate has impacted them in some way, according to the survey of more than 3,530 adult AAPI women published Wednesday by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, a progressive advocacy and community-organizing group.

More than one in five East Asian women 50 and up say they’ve been called a racial slur, and some 19% of Pacific Islander women 50 and up say they’ve experienced discrimination or harassment at work. Around one in five older East Asian and South Asian women say they’ve felt unsafe walking outside, according to the survey, which was conducted by Harris Poll between Feb. 1 and March 2. 

“The way that the different groups are experiencing racism and discrimination varies, but the bottom line is that they are all experiencing racism and discrimination at high levels,” Drishti Pillai, NAPAWF’s research manager, told MarketWatch in an interview.

Substantial shares of AAPI women 50 and older — including 19% of East Asian women and 17% of Pacific Islander women — also say the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health.

Addressing COVID-19 ‘goes beyond the health and economic consequences of the pandemic — it also includes all the discrimination and racism that has come as a result of the pandemic.’

— Drishti Pillai, research manager for NAPAWF

Accordingly, close to three in four of the older AAPI women surveyed said it was important for the Biden administration to end discrimination based on race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender identity. Large majorities across subgroups also said it was important that they see more women candidates running for office, as well as greater AAPI representation in government and politics.

COVID-19 was the top priority that AAPI women over 50 across the board wanted the federal government to address; the next most important priority for East Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander women was the economy, followed by healthcare costs. South Asian women cited healthcare costs as their second most important concern, followed by the economy.

For Asian American and Pacific Islander women 50 and older, addressing COVID-19 “goes beyond the health and economic consequences of the pandemic — it also includes all the discrimination and racism that has come as a result of the pandemic,” Pillai said.

The U.S. has seen a documented uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes and bias incidents during the pandemic, including a spate of violent attacks on older Asians in the Bay Area earlier this year.

A man accused of killing eight people — including six women of Asian descent — at Atlanta-area spas in March pleaded guilty last month to four of the killings and received a life prison sentence. He could still face an additional hate-crime sentencing enhancement, the Associated Press reports.

In May, Biden signed into law a bill that would speed up the Justice Department’s review of hate crimes and have the department issue guidance for state and local law-enforcement agencies on hate-crime reporting, data collection and public-education campaigns, among other provisions.

About eight in 10 AAPI women ages 50 and older in the NAPAWF survey said they had voted in the 2020 presidential election, with majorities of each subgroup reporting they voted for Biden. U.S. Census Bureau data, meanwhile, shows that the United States’ Asian population is the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the country. 

“We cannot go on ignoring these issues anymore, or ignoring this community,” Pillai said. “They’re growing in numbers; they’re making sure their voices are heard at the polls. It’s just making sure that we stop and take notice.”

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