Racism conditions the life of migrant Chinese, according to study
According to a study conducted by the Institute for Communication (InCom-UAB) and funded by the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP), the daily life of Chinese migrants is heavily determined by racism. As a people, the Chinese are highly aware of the need to avoid any type of activity on social media or behaviours which may lead to racist attacks. The pandemic also gave way to the emergence of new racist expressions and attitudes.
The Chinese community is used to racial microaggressions, i.e., direct, conscious and deliberate verbal attacks. Public spaces, particularly public transports, are common scenarios for these attacks. But there are also attacks in the workplace, particularly when there is direct contact with the public, and in schools. One of the people interviewed in this study justified the fact that their son was not a victim of verbal attacks by stating: "No, because he does not seem too Chinese. Plus, during the pandemic he did not go to school or leave the house". With regard to hate speech (online), the younger the person the more risk there is, but in reality the most common reaction to these episodes is abandoning the social media in which it takes place.
From the viewpoint of the Chinese migrant community, COVID marked a turning point, with the emergence of new racial expressions signaling this community as the one to blame for the appearance of the virus, and new behaviours giving way to racist attitudes, such as the use of masks at the start of the pandemic only among members of the Chinese community, who knew the dire situation would not take long to reach other parts of the world thanks to family members in China. According to the study, there has not been an increase on aggressions, but when the results are interpreted, what must be taken into account are the periods marked by lockdown and "social distancing".
This research also helped to verify, once again, the difficulties encountered when studying racism. In the case of the Chinese community, there is a tendency to downplay microaggressions and not want to play the role of victims. They find it difficult to talk about racism, particularly in the case of the older generations.
The study's fieldwork was based on twenty face-to-face, semi-structured interviews conducted in 2022. The sample represents three different profiles: first generation migrants (traditional mugration flow from rural and urban communities), descendants of migrants (socialised in a transnational context and born in Spain), and Ph.D. students, a group which in the past few years has increased in numbers.
The research team was made up of Amparo Huertas, director of InCom-UAB and coordinator of the project; Luiz Peres-Neto, lecturer in Journalism who has worked with Huertas previously on migration and hate speech studies, and three lecturers in East Asian Studies, experts in Chinese diaspora: Joaquín Beltrán, Amelia Sáiz and Irene Masdeu.
Provided by University of Barcelona