top of page

Rising Racism and Unemployment

The pandemic brought upon much more than a rampant disease and a strike to the American economy; it also fostered vehement racism. Hailing from China, the coronavirus earned the derogatory monikers of the "Chinese virus" and "Kung flu." Not only were Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders dealing with the threat of this deadly, new virus, but they became tasked with the difficulty of facing harsh discrimination from the communities around them. Frequent instances occurred where customers dwindled at AAIP (Asian American and Pacific Islander) owned establishments. Whether it was out of fear for the virus or newfound xenophobia, habitual customers even left AAIP businesses struggling. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council recorded over 2,000 Asian American bigotry incidents during the pandemic, which showed a stark increase from all previous records. This trend led to considerable voluntary unemployment among the AAIP community. For those who weathered the racial slurs and public harassment, involuntary unemployment was not a far-off reality. There is a broad understanding that the Asian American demographic has been financially stable throughout time. However, this belief neglects the approximate quarter of AAIP workers in California (the US State with the highest AAIP population) who battled poverty even before the pandemic. The coronavirus only further worsened AAIP financial situations. Also, Asian American discrimination is not novel in the workplace. In 2005, Jane Hyun created the term "Bamboo Ceiling," which is essentially the restriction faced by Asian Americans attempting to gain entry into leadership and higher-level managerial roles in the workplace. Asian American discrimination became emboldened by the idea of Asians being the model minority: a civil minority group that has been more successful out of the general minority population. This model minority stereotype became further accompanied by beliefs that Asians are characteristically passive and submissive, allowing Asian American attackers to justify the reasons for their actions. These beliefs also fed into the "Bamboo Ceiling," as those with outspoken demeanors were often perceived as the best fit for leadership positions. The pandemic aside, it is clear that Asian Americans have been facing discrimination in the workplace for quite some time. Even if members of the AAIP decide to return to the workplace in the future, the pre-existing issues will remain present. One remedy to these issues would be an increase in awareness and advocacy by employers. If an employer witnesses racial hostility against Asian Americans, they should defend their Asian American employees. Furthermore, employers must educate themselves on these "unconscious biases" that exist in the workplace. Only through an effort by employers and all employees can AAIPs break past the "Bamboo Ceiling" and combat pandemic-related Asian hate.

Works Cited:

Kandil, Caitlin Yoshiko, and Kimmy Yam. “Asian Americans Face Dual Challenges: Surging Unemployment and Racism.” NBC News, 5 Aug. 2020,

“Why Are So Many Asian Americans Unemployed During the Pandemic?” UVA Today, 14 Dec. 2020,

PowerToFly. “The Bamboo Ceiling: Asian American Discrimination in 2021.” YouTube, uploaded by PowerToFly, 24 Mar. 2021,


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page