Hate crimes against Asian Americans on a steady rise – why?

Stop Asian Hate protest in Oakland, California (Photo: Stella Aiko)

By Ben Chan, staff writer

March 16, 2021. Eight people are dead following a sequence of three shootings across three different massage parlors across Atlanta, Georgia. Feb 25, 2021, a 36-year-old man is stabbed in New York, left in critical condition for “no reason.”

These attacks are just a few contributing to the 150 percent increase in anti-Asian Hate crimes in 2020–and that number is increasing. “Hate and stigma against Asian-Americans… have gone viral during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Anahi Viladrich, a sociology professor at Queens College and The Graduate Center at the City University of New York.

Social media has primarily contributed to the spread of racism and prejudice against Asian-Americans. Popular terms like “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” have spread rapidly into “race-based stigma against Asian groups.” Many have also blamed the Trump Administration for this and considered former President Donald Trump’s use of anti-Asian and xenophobic rhetoric at the start of the pandemic. His first use started on March 16, 2020, with a tweet of “the Chinese virus,” which was then followed by a large amount of anti-Asian hashtags from his supporters on Twitter. Studies say that 20 percent of the hashtags associated with #COVID-19 demonstrated anti-Asian sentiment, compared to 50 percent of hashtags with #Chinesevirus.

Also, right after Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, anti-Asian sentiment rose to a staggering 85 percent for a short amount of time. 

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism also studied police departments in 16 major U.S cities and found 122 anti-Asian hate crimes last year, which is a 149 percent increase from 49 in 2019.

Hate crimes across different minority groups even dropped seven percent–from 1,878 to 1,717–even with such a significant increase within Asian-Americans, illustrating the rise of Asian hate crimes.

Many different Asian-owned businesses have been targeted as well. In New York, waking up to anti-Asian epithets and stereotypes spray-painted across walls have become a norm, with messages like “Chinese [expletive] stink like fish” seen in Brooklyn.

New York is a prime example of anti-Asian hate crimes. They had a mere three hate crimes targeted towards Asians in 2019, but in 2020, that number jumped to an astounding 28, which was a 900 percent increase. All but four of these hate crimes were related to COVID-19.

Students across Maria Carrillo High School also expressed their opinions on the recent increase of anti-Asian hate crimes. Asian-American Junior Anuj Deb stated that “other than spreading the message to stop Asian hate, there isn’t a perfect fix for this, or a perfect solution. We must work together, and with lots of effort, maybe we’ll find a solution for all of this.”

Junior Charlie Pickle also said, “People shouldn’t be harassed for being Asian, especially old people. It’s certainly not something I want to be seeing on TV.” He also stated that “we must educate the population and make them aware of the issue, so history doesn’t repeat itself.”

The Biden Administration has made efforts to combat these recent anti-Asian hate crimes. In early January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order denouncing anti-Asian hate crimes. This executive order primarily focused on issuing new guidance rules to help the Justice Department acknowledge and respond to the increased number of anti-Asian hate crimes. On top of that, since the beginning of Biden’s term, administration officials have reached out to many Asian-American groups, Asian-American politicians and Asian-American members of Congress, all in efforts to make sure that Asian Americans are being treated equitably.

Biden spoke upon these recent hate crimes, stating that “It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop…. Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.” 

Biden also said in a press conference that he would try as “much as possible” to roll back the anti-Asian and xenophobic rhetoric Trump used during his presidency, stating that they were “definitely harmful.”

Major efforts from the Senate have also been made to combat this wave of violence against Asian Americans. On April 22, 2021 the Senate approved a bill, with a vote of 94-1, that “would direct the Department of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes related to Covid-19 that were reported to law enforcement agencies and help them establish ways to report such incidents online and perform public outreach”.

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