A series of violent crimes against Asians and Asian Americans has prompted activists and experts to warn that racist rhetoric about the coronavirus pandemic may be fueling a rise in hate incidents, reports USA Today. Police in Oakland, California, announced this week that they arrested a suspect in connection with a brutal attack of a 91-year-old man in Chinatown that was caught on camera.
In less than a week, a Thai man was attacked and killed in San Francisco, a Vietnamese woman was assaulted and robbed of $1,000 in San Jose, and a Filipino man was attacked with a box cutter on the subway in New York City. Police departments across the country are warning residents of increased crime around Lunar New Year, in part because of the threat of robberies during the multi-day celebrations that begin Friday. Cash is a customary gift. Violence against Asian Americans sharply increased in March as COVID-19 began spreading across the country, and some politicians, including former President Donald Trump, blamed China for the pandemic.
Stop AAPI Hate, a website that tracks hate incidents against Asian American Pacific Islander communities and includes a self-reporting tool for harassment, discrimination and violent attacks, recorded 2,808 incidents of anti-Asian discrimination across the U.S. from its inception on March 19 to Dec. 31, 2020. Another organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, recorded more than 3,000 hate incidents in their self-reporting system since late April 2020 – by far the highest number in the tool’s four-year history.
The FBI collects national hate crime data, but data for 2020 and 2021 has not yet been released. 269 anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in 2019, according to the latest data available. That number may be just a fraction of the true total given that fewer than half of the victims of a hate crime ever report it to the police, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“When President Trump … insisted on using the term ‘China virus,’ we saw that hate speech really led to hate violence,” said Russel Jeung, chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University and creator of Stop AAPI Hate. “That sort of political rhetoric and that sort of anti-Asian climate has continued to this day.”