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Honoring Asian Americans: A Cornerstone of American Business

This post was written by Lynn Weinstein a Business Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

Asian-owned businesses make up 10 percent of all businesses in United States (approximately 555,262 employer establishments), and during the COVID-19 pandemic many have felt the effects of a new rise in anti-Asian sentiment. Some Asian American businesses have been boycotted or vandalized, and some employees and owners have been physically and verbally abused.

Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants side by side.

Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants side by side in the Flushing neighborhood of New York City’s Queens borough. 2018. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Asian Americans have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with the Asian community (around 7% of the U.S. population, or 22 million in 2019) facing historic unemployment and discrimination. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54% of Asian Americans work in management, business, the sciences, and the arts; 17% work in sales and office occupations; 17% work in service occupations and 10% work in production, transportation, and material moving occupations.

Cashier weighing a bag of products at the cash register.

Southeast Asian Restaurant and Market, Lowell, Massachusetts. 1987. Photo: John Lueders-Booth, photographer. Image 20, Lowell Folklife Project Collection, Library of Congress.

This month honors the contributions of Asian Americans, and social media campaigns have emerged encouraging people to shop at Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned businesses that have been so adversely affected by COVID-19. Asian American businesses have grown on the internet in response to the pandemic, with many sites featuring a variety of goods, including cosmetics, food, beverages, home goods, and gifts. It should be noted that Chinatowns have been particularly hard hit during these times, as tourists are no longer flocking to these business districts, and the neighboring workforce in these areas has yet fully returned in many communities.

Street corner showing awning of businesses such as Anita Jewelry in Chinatown.

Chinatown, San Francisco, California. 2012. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Learn More:

Silver diner with large Korean letters on the front window.

Diner (American and Korean food), Route 27, Columbus, Georgia. 1982. Photo: John Margolies, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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