It’s been more than a year since Henry Hou went on his last date. The pandemic has made the 32-year-old pianist not only more cautious about in-person meetings, but also more choosy about whom he dates.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Asian Americans have faced not only the virus, but also what activists call “the virus of racism”. Nearly 3,800 racially motivated incidents have been recorded by the platform Stop AAPI Hate since March last year, with most of them in California, where Hou was born and grew up.
“Racism against Asian people has always existed; the pandemic has made those incidents more common,” said Hou.
As a high school student, he was asked by fellow students if he was considered handsome among Asians, or he was called “Yao Ming”?the Chinese former National Basketball Association All-Star?instead of his real name on a basketball court.
“Those comments made you lose confidence and individuality,” he said.
Hou believes that the increase in anti-Asian racism has made it more difficult for Asian American men, who some say are considered to be less desirable in online dating preferences.
The researchers for a report published in November 2018 by Sage Journals, a global academic publisher, said: “We find that Asian American men, in particular, are socially excluded from romantic relationships. In fact, we find that despite the higher education and income of Asian American men, there is evidence that they are systematically excluded from having romantic relationships during adolescence and young adulthood.
“The popular images of Asian American men as geeky and undesirable as potential mates are consistent with work on racial preferences among internet daters, as well as with our own research on the romantic relationship opportunities of adolescents and young adults (in which Asian American youth begin dating later than other racial groups),” the researchers wrote.
Another study by researchers at the College of William and Mary found evidence of gender-based stereotypes on cultural and psychological levels.
The researchers, by examining photos in six popular magazines, found that Asian men were underrepresented in the pages of US magazines, which the researchers said renders them “invisible” in media depictions.
Meanwhile, Hou, a user of several dating apps, including Tinder and Bumble, said, “I think it (racism on dating apps) happened a lot of times, but I’m not aware of it, because I could have been filtered out, or the app just won’t match me (with those rejecting Asians).”
He used to be open to dating people of different backgrounds, but he said he is now inclined to seek partners of his own race and culture. He has recently subscribed to a new dating app called 2RedBeans, because the app says 70 percent of its users are of Chinese descent.
Q Zhao, co-founder of 2Red-Beans, a dating service based in the San Francisco Bay Area, said, “We have noticed a preference trend for the same ethnicity and cultural background, though no accurate data is available yet to back it.”
According to the company, half of its users are in the US, with the rest in Canada, Australia, China and other countries.
“I think the pandemic has augmented Asian Americans’ sense of identity in dating. If you date someone outside of your ethnic background, there is a risk of being discriminated against,” Zhao said.
A study published in the journal Health Education and Behavior suggests that racist rhetoric, such as “Chinese virus” and related terms, has had a profound impact on how non-Asian Americans see people of Asian descent, based on data from 2007 to 2020.
The study found that bias against Asian Americans declined steadily from 2007 through early 2020, but began to increase in March of last year following the increase in stigmatizing language in some media outlets.
Rucker Johnson, a public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the study, said, “Research suggests that when people see Asian Americans as being more ‘foreign’, they are more likely to express hostility toward them and engage in acts of violence and discrimination.”
Zhao, of 2RedBeans, said her company has organized virtual lectures and gatherings for members to share their experiences, and users can report racist language or behavior.