From Racial Awakening to Collective Action: Asian Americans’ Pathways to Activism and Benevolent Support During COVID-19

Doris F. Chang, Nari Yoo, Christina Seowoo Lee, Aakriti Prasai, Sumie Okazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: In response to increased anti-Asian discrimination and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study examined pathways from discrimination experiences to own-group collective action in a diverse sample of 689 Asian Americans. Method: Informed by theories of ethnoracial identity, critical consciousness, and collective action and utilizing structural equation modeling, we examined the associations among discrimination, psychological distress, critical awareness and motivation (CAM) to resist racism, and two types of own-group collective action: political activism and benevolent support. Multigroup invariance tests also examined whether these associations differed by ethnic subgroup, immigrant generation, and age. Results: Results supported our integrated model in which distress mediated the relationship between discrimination and CAM, and CAM mediated the relationship between discrimination and collective action. The structural pathways from discrimination to own-group collective action generally did not differ by ethnic subgroup and immigrant generation, although path coefficients for the effect of discrimination on distress did vary by age (p <. 01). Further, discrimination did not appear to have the same catalyzing effect on CAM for South and Southeast Asians compared to East Asians. Conclusions: While anti-Asian discrimination was associated with both distress and engagement in collective action during the COVID-19 pandemic, group differences in mediational processes highlight the importance of disaggregating analyses to explore both similarities and differences in Asian Americans’ responses to discrimination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-515
Number of pages13
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023


  • Asian Americans
  • activism
  • collective action
  • critical consciousness
  • discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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