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  • Writer's pictureJana Abulaban

Increasing Attacks on Asian Americans

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

Such as in San Jose, California, people have taken to the streets to protest the recent surge in Asian hate crimes. (Jason Leung/Unsplash)

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an alarming increase in racially motivated violence or other hate crimes targeting Asian Americans. Last year, the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate received more than 2,800 accounts of hate crimes against Asian Americans around the country.

Amidst the pandemic, nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over the course of about a year, according to research released on Tuesday (March 16, 2021) by reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate. It's a huge spike from last year's total of around 2,600 hate incidents nationwide over a five-month span. From March to December 2020, 70.9 percent of the cases recorded were verbal abuse, 21.4 percent were shunning, 8.7 percent were physical attacks, 6.4 percent were coughed/spat on, and 8 percent were workplace discrimination or denial of service. Women accounted for 68 percent of the reports, while men accounted for 29 percent. The non-profit does not report crimes to the authorities.

Since the outbreak began last spring, Asian Americans have seen much more racial abuse than in previous years. Hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment increased by 1,900% in New York City in 2020, according to the NYPD. Between March 19 and December 31, 2020, Stop AAPI Hate, a monitoring database established at the start of the pandemic in response to a rise in racial abuse, received 2,808 reports of anti-Asian discrimination. The abuse has continued into 2021, and shortly after taking office in January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order condemning anti-Asian discrimination. While anti-Asian violence has occurred across the country, particularly in major cities, the increase in attacks in 2021 has been concentrated in the Bay Area, particularly in the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Oakland.

Many attribute the rise in 2020 to Biden's predecessor; former President Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as "the China virus," blaming China for the pandemic. To his critics, Trump was following in the footsteps of a long American tradition of using diseases to explain anti-Asian xenophobia, which dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries and has influenced perceptions of Asian Americans as "perpetual foreigners."

One Chinese American woman reported that a “man on the subway slapped my hands, threatened to throw his lighter at me, then called me a ‘c---- b----.’ "Get the f—- out of NYC," he said later. Another woman, a Filipino American, said she and her boyfriend were in a Washington, D.C. metro station when a man yelled "Chinese b——" at them, coughed at them, and physically assaulted them. Some were charged as hate crimes, such as a woman in the Bronx who was struck in the head with an umbrella after her assailants made anti-Asian remarks. Other cases, such as the hurling of racial insults, may not have resulted in official charges.

During the pandemic, community members and journalists have reported an increase in hate crimes and hateful events targeting Asian Americans. On March 16, eight people were killed in a mass shooting at spas in Atlanta, with the majority of the victims being Asian American women. The Associated Press reported that four of the victims were women of Korean descent, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry. Although legal experts say it's likely, law enforcement hasn't decided if the shooter would be charged with a hate crime.

According to police department reports, there was a substantial increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in major cities across the United States last year. Hate crimes in 16 of America's largest cities were investigated by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, in a report released this month. Although such crimes decreased by 7 percent overall in 2020, those targeting Asian people increased by nearly 150 percent. What’s more is that many of those crimes are going unreported.


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