Data were collected through an online survey posted in about ten Facebook groups in June 2020. Respondents were adults of Asian descent who have lived in the U.S. during the pandemic. Racial discrimination is examined through personally experienced discrimination and discrimination depicted on media (media discrimination). Each type of discrimination further consists of subtle and overt discrimination. Two research questions investigate (1) how the frequency of experienced racial discrimination and media discrimination; (2) how different types of discrimination (overt & subtle) influence one’s emotions and behaviors. The final sample consisted of 249 adults from 20 states. We used hierarchical regression for data analysis, controlling for age, gender, and length of residence in the U.S.
For research question 1, more frequent experienced racial discrimination (β = .42, p < .001) and media discrimination (β = .27, p < .001) were both associated with greater emotional impact. Further, the moderation was significant (β = -.16, p = .015) such that the relationship between experienced discrimination and emotional impact was less pronounced among those who frequently observed discrimination on media. Frequent experienced discrimination was also associated with greater behavioral impact (β = .46, p < .001).
For research question 2, both overt experienced discrimination (β = .32, p < .001) and overt media discrimination (β = .18, p = .009) were associated with greater emotional impact. In addition, overt (β = .38, p < .001) and subtle discrimination (β = .20, p = .001) through personal experiences were associated with greater behavioral impact while only subtle media discrimination (rejection from services on media; β = .14, p = .043) was associated with greater behavioral impact.
It is noteworthy that when it comes to emotional impacts, both frequent discrimination and overt discrimination through personal experience and media coverage are significant. When it comes to behavioral impacts, the detriment of experienced racial discrimination surpasses that of media discrimination.
Although media coverage of disease-linked hate crimes may raise public awareness, consuming such reports can contribute to increased negative emotions (Noelle, 2002; Yu et al., 2020). Practitioners should be aware of the role of media consumption in clients’ emotions. A possible explanation for the moderating effect might be that frequent exposure to vicarious discrimination on media informed Asian Americans of experiencing discrimination, thereby reducing the emotional impacts.