My View: Anti-Asian Wave Only Getting Worse Now

Steven Senne / AP

By David M. Greenwald

Last summer, friends of mine, who a decade ago adopted a girl from China, explained that they had to leave their church because the harassment against them and their daughter grew so bad.  Since the rise of the pandemic and the blame put—especially by the former president—on China, anti-Asian racist incidents have been on the rise, and now it has itself reach epidemic proportions.

Many of the attacks have been located in the Bay Area.  A particularly disturbing video surfaced showing a 91-year-old man pushed from behind and landing on his face on the street in the Chinatown neighborhood of Oakland.

This prompted Vice President Kamala Harris to speak out.

“Hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants have skyrocketed during the pandemic. That’s why our Administration has taken actions to address these xenophobic attacks,” she said. “We must continue to commit ourselves to combating racism and discrimination.”

In another video, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee went for a morning walk in his San Francisco neighborhood.  Footage captured a man running at him full speed, smashing his body to the pavement.  He died of his injuries just two days later.  A 19-year-old has been charged with murder in that case.

“These attacks taking place in the Bay Area are part of a larger trend of anti-Asian American/Pacific Islander hate brought on in many ways by COVID-19, as well as some of the xenophobic policies and racist rhetoric that were pushed forward by the prior administration,” says Manju Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, a coalition of California community-based groups.

According to a story in NPR, there have been more than two dozen assaults and robberies in the Bay Area, which mirror a national rise in hate crimes against older Asian Americans during the pandemic.

Kulkarni’s group has documented over 3000 incidents of anti-Asian hate across most of the country from March to December 2020.

“And roughly 7 to 8% of those, unfortunately, come from elders in our community who have experienced incidents, not unlike the ones that have taken place in recent days,” Kulkarni says.

The New York Times yesterday reports “he attacks quickly, reinvigorated simmering outrage, fear and hurt over a wave of anti-Asian violence and harassment that community leaders say was spurred earlier in the pandemic by the rhetoric of former President Donald J. Trump, who insisted on calling the coronavirus ‘the China virus’ or the ‘Kung Flu.’

The Times talks to Carl Chan, the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, who says he has tallied more than 20 assaults over the past two weeks in Oakland’s Chinatown alone—but says most are not reported.

Chan told the Times, “Our seniors are afraid to walk their own streets.”

This week the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus issued a strong statement condemning the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes.

“The recent surge in hate crimes targeting innocent Asian and Pacific Islander Americans is sickening, and the API Caucus condemns these cowardly attacks,” they said. “Since the start of the pandemic, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have felt the brunt of the previous president’s racist rhetoric, which wrongly associated the virus with a single race of people and then stood back as API citizens fell victim to thousands of incidents of discrimination and violence.

“The last several weeks have shown that the problem is only getting worse, as women and seniors have especially become targeted for assaults, vandalism, verbal harassment, denial of access to services and public spaces, and even deadly violence.

“Our most vulnerable residents are under attack and this is a national emergency. We appreciate President Biden’s executive order calling for greater protections for the API community as a result of racism and xenophobia linked to the pandemic, and we thank those who stand in solidarity with the API community.

“But it is not enough to simply disavow racism, xenophobia, and violence. We must call attention to these injustices and protect one another. This dark chapter in American history is a moment when accountability and action are required to bring about justice and peace.”

A multi-author published study tracked the emergences of Sinophobic behavior on the web during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and found “the Web is being exploited for the dissemination of potentially harmful and disturbing content, such as the spread of conspiracy theories and hateful speech towards specific ethnic groups, in particular towards Chinese people since COVID-19 is believed to have originated from China.”

Among their main findings, “We find a rise in discussions related to China and Chinese people on Twitter and 4chan’s /pol/ after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, we observe a rise in the use of specific Sinophobic slurs, primarily on /pol/ and to a lesser extent on Twitter.”

The Queens Chronicle article published in September found that anti-Asian hate crime had jumped 1900 percent during the pandemic in New York.

“Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans have been forced to endure demeaning and disgusting acts of bigotry and hate, consisting of everything from verbal assaults to physical attacks,” said NY Representative Grace Meng in a statement following the passage of a resolution.

Will it help that the President in office now is attempting to calm rather than gaslight problem?

In January, President Biden issued a memorandum condemning and combating racism.

“The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin,” the memo read.

“Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons,” it continued.  “These actions defied the best practices and guidelines of public health officials and have caused significant harm to AAPI families and communities that must be addressed.”

Compare that to language used by former President Trump when he repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as “kung flu,” much to the delight of his audience in Arizona last June.

“Wuhan. Wuhan was catching on, coronavirus, kung flu,” he said, repeating it as the crowd roared. “I could give you many, many names. Some people call it the Chinese flu, the China flu, they call it the China.”

Wrote the Washington Post: “Trump drew criticism after he used the racially insensitive moniker to describe the coronavirus at a campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday night — his first since the outbreak largely shut down the country.”

At his rally, he downplayed the virus while saying, “I can name kung flu, I can name 19 different versions of names. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu, what (is the) difference?”

In a nutshell that statement embodies the problems we are still facing, attempting to contain COVID and combat a slew of anti-Asian hate crimes.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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35 Comments

    1. David Greenwald

      You have been so infected by the Trumpian mindset that you continue to think just like him. You use this example as a defense of Trumpism, when it is in fact an indictment. Rather than shrugging it off, we have a much deeper problem precisely because what you are seeing is not something that has been perpetrated by a few extremist groups that could be easily dismissed as an aberration and instead the polemics and gaslighting have inculcated a general acceptance that is much more pervasive than most people want to admit. This situation is far more dangerous than the situation where you have a few extremist individuals acting alone in isolated incidents.

      1. Alan Miller

        What?  How did you get all that out of KO’s comment?  Yes, he pulls you chain, but basically he was making the same point I was (below, 8:22am).  How do you attribute all that other spew you unleashed?

      2. Keith Olsen

        You have been so infected by the Trumpian mindset that you continue to think just like him

        As others have been so infected with the TDS mindset and continue to blame Trump for almost everything, including black on Asian violence.

        1. David Greenwald

          I would argue that what you call the “TDS mindset” is simply a response to the same thing – Trump gaslighting. Basically, everyone was getting gaslighted by inflammatory rhetoric. Trump was the dominant political figure of the last four years – he dominated the airwaves and his rhetoric had a deep impact on most Americans.

        2. Alan Miller

          Trump was the dominant political figure of the last four years – he dominated the airwaves and his rhetoric had a deep impact on most Americans.

          The media allowed him to be, profited off this polarization.  You say you read Taibbi – did you read his piece yesterday?

  1. Alan Miller

    It’s interesting you ran this today, because I heard two different mentions of this on NorCal radio yesterday from pretty disparate political viewpoints.   One was talking about a lot of press in the Bay Area on Anti-Asian violence recently, and being attributed to anti-Asian violence due to the coronavirus.  The discussion was about how the implication was it was white people perpetrating this, yet there were accompanying videos that they said clearly showed black perpetrators, yet none of the articles discussed that at all.

    The other discussion also mentioned that the press wasn’t covering the race of the perps, and went a bit deeper into discussing long-standing conflicts in both SF and Oakland Chinatowns between black and Asian communities that live adjacent to each other in these areas.  The question was the same, why isn’t this being discussed?  They also mentioned that violent crime reported in one of the Chinatown areas was actually down over 50% in 2020 over 2019.

    In mentioning this, I’m not downplaying white-on-Asian or coronavirus-inspired incidents, both of which clearly occur.  I was on the meeting where the woman who lived next to Pacifico described the incident where a man approached her in her driveway and yelled at her with racial-epitaphs, blamed her for coronavirus and told her to go back to China.  That was horrific stuff that left her shaken, so clearly this is occurring.  Although come to think of it, she didn’t mention the race of the perp, so I realize now I’m only assuming he was white.  From her description it sounded like severe mental illness may also have been involved.

    I’ve also stated here repeatedly how stupid this thinking is since Asian people have been wearing masks (which protect others, not the wearer so much) in much greater numbers and far longer than everyone else, so everyone should be thanking them, not blaming them.  As well, I’ve written about the disgusting anti-Asian incidents in Yolo County in the WW-II era that seem all but ignored here (I didn’t learn about this until I saw a presentation in 2020 by a local Asian man who live through it).

    So my point here is, your article also doesn’t mention the black-on-Asian violence aspect, which, had I not heard the radio talks yesterday, would have led me to believe this was all white-on-Asian violence.  Is there some reason this is taboo to bring up, or that you didn’t mention it, or that we can’t discuss the full universe of what is going on?  It seems to me the only way to deal with issues like this is to discuss them openly and honestly.

    1. Alan Miller

      Ha!  I see KO posted on the same issue already, but not quite so delicately 😉 .  Basically the same point though.  I didn’t see his comment as I was typing in the comment box when this article posted late last night, fell asleep, and finished typing this morning.

    2. David Greenwald

      “It’s interesting you ran this today”

      I don’t know why it’s interesting that it was run today – we had several stories on it over the last week including yesterday where DA Boudin met with the Asian community. Plus there were major articles in the NY Times and other national publications. So it seemed like a natural topic at the end of the week that I hadn’t personally weighed in on.

      You make an interesting point that violent crime is down overall… which I think illustrates that hate crimes really are a separate phenomenon than simple crime.

      To the point I made with Keith – I do think when there is a gaslighting and inflaming of racial tensions – as there clearly was under Trump – we may see that emerge not just among his supporters. After all, when Trump gaslighted the country, all sides responded, albeit differently. So if the Black community is feeling disproportionately impacted back COVID – both in terms of infection rates, death toll and economic fallout and there is a creation of a scapegoat, the response is probably not that surprising.

      You bring up an interesting question: does media coverage of hate crimes bring in race of perpetrators? Worth noting, APILC’s statement mentions no race of the perpetrator either.

      Here is another article on a different hate crime – link

      Probably would have assumed he was white, but the article does state it, albeit briefly: “Hoehn, who is white, “became angry” and “took several steps to threaten, intimidate and interfere with” his neighbor and the construction workers, according to court documents. “

    3. Bill Marshall

       Although come to think of it, she didn’t mention the race of the perp, so I realize now I’m only assuming he was white. 

      Evidence of ‘inherent bias’?  (tongue fully in mouth cheek)

      From her description it sounded like severe mental illness may also have been involved.

      Yep, but to some, that might also be considered ‘inherent bias’… also, likely true that there were ‘substance’, and/or MH issues involved… at least @ the 50/50 level…

  2. Ron Oertel

    So my point here is, your article also doesn’t mention the black-on-Asian violence aspect, which, had I not heard the radio talks yesterday, would have led me to believe this was all white-on-Asian violence.  Is there some reason this is taboo to bring up, or that you didn’t mention it, or that we can’t discuss the full universe of what is going on?

    Of course, and it’s the same thing I’ve been pointing out.

    The press itself (not just the Vanguard) is controlling the information that gets out, to align with a particular “message”.  Also a reason that some time ago, they stopped mentioning the skin color of suspects in their “descriptions”.

    Look at any comment section (underneath those type of articles, if allowed), and you’ll see that this strategy is not working.

    Not sure of the reason, but it appears to me that it’s primarily due to the mindset/worldview that’s promoted, regarding white people being the only ones in a position to engage in racism.

    They might also believe that (for some reason), discussing white racism is “helpful”, but discussing any other type is somehow harmful.

    It’s really part of the same b.s. that’s been going on for years, but amplified recently.

    It seems to me the only way to deal with issues like this is to discuss them openly and honestly.

    Good luck with that.  🙂

    By the way, I think the unspoken “truth” is part of the same reason that supposedly-liberal white people in San Francisco (who have money) send their kids to private school, while feeling “bad” about doing so.  Hilarious.

    There’s an old saying – observe what people actually “do”, and not what they “say”.

    As Keith alluded to, it’s particularly amusing to see some attempt to blame Trump for black racism.  But it really is a rather impressive and creative twisting of claims, when you think about it.  Some of these people could probably write great novels.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      As I mentioned in my response to Alan Miller, the press releases from Asian groups – none of them mention Blacks. I’m sure that’s intentional on their part, but it may be why the narrative is framed as such.

      1. Ron Oertel

        All of this goes back to the inability of society to discuss racism “openly and honestly”, as Alan M. put it.

        And frankly, there’s very little upside in doing so.

        In my opinion, this is also a reason that ethnic study courses will not necessarily help (and may have an opposite effect from what is intended).  My impression is that the people most interested in promoting ethnic studies are part of that same, underlying “message” that’s being promoted.

        I can only imagine how someone who challenges what is taught would be viewed. But since they’re starting to force this at public schools (and universities), students will have to pass those courses. (Essentially held hostage to that message.)

        1. David Greenwald

          I see the problem very differently. I see the problem as one of someone intentionally inflaming passions against a group – in this case Asians in conjunction with COVID and the natural outcome from those acts of gaslighting. It’s not just the president, you see it all over, people use the phrase, “Asian flu,” “China flu,” “Wuhan Flu” and those acts have consequences. How does that fit into your narrative?

        2. Ron Oertel

          Personally, I never viewed Trump’s comments regarding this (particular) issue as racist in the first place.  He was attempting to shift responsibility for Covid to the Chinese government.

          I would think that a lot of American residents (of Chinese heritage) are not fans of China’s government, either.  (Not to mention those from Hong Kong.)

          Just as I view Trump’s comments regarding “Pocahontas” as poking fun at Warren’s claims, not at Native Americans themselves.

          It could be the media that fans the flames/interpretation – not Trump.

          But I don’t think that many in the black community are fans of Trump in the first place. So, unless they’re receiving “subconscious” messages from him, I’m failing to see the connection.

          1. David Greenwald

            It’s hard to read the comments I posted from June of last year (as posted in this article) as anything other than that. Plus you seem to ignore the usage of the term in common usage on social media and in every day conversation.

            There is a reason why anti-Asian hate crimes are way up right now. It’s not an accident.

        3. Ron Oertel

          It’s hard for some people, apparently.

          I view it as completely separate.

          But the more interesting thing to me is the controlling of the message, regarding black racism against Asians.  (Which predates Trump, for that matter.)  I posted an article the other day from about a decade ago, regarding that. These type of articles are hard to come by, as a result of the controlling of the message in the media.

          Dirty secret of black-on-Asian violence is out (sfgate.com)

          Truth be told, Asians and whites are largely in the same “victim” category, regarding this.  (A reason that both groups attend private schools, in San Francisco – if they’re able to do so.)

           

           

          1. David Greenwald

            A lot of problems with your comment…

            (1) It’s not completely separate
            (2) one thing I think you are seeing is Asian leaders do not want this to become a larger rift between the Asian and Black community
            (3) Asians and White are NOT largely in the same victim category. Asians are far more vulnerable and in most ways – except some groups economically – far more like other people of color, than whites.

        4. Ron Oertel

          But the reason that Asians are more victimized (right now, compared to whites) is because some (especially recent arrivals) are forced to live in or near high-crime (predominantly black) neighborhoods.

          Almost all whites have been able to escape this.

          1. David Greenwald

            You completely missed one of Alan’s critical points – violent crime is down in those areas from 2019 to 2020, this is not connected to normal crime.

        5. Ron Oertel

          ” . . . one thing I think you are seeing is Asian leaders do not want this to become a larger rift between the Asian and Black community.”

          Lack of honesty / controlling the message never works.

          Violent crime is up in the Bay Area, by the way. I could post a link to an article regarding that, but I’m not sure if others can access it. I believe it took a temporary dip during the shutdowns.

          1. David Greenwald

            “Lack of honesty / controlling the message never works.”

            What does that mean “lack of honesty” – what aren’t they being honest about?

            “Violent crime is up in the Bay Area, by the way”

            Better to read Alan’s comment first then respond.

        6. Ron Oertel

          (2) one thing I think you are seeing is Asian leaders do not want this to become a larger rift between the Asian and Black community.

          I believe that this effort goes well-beyond some Asian leaders, and includes the media itself.

          But, I have a question for you, in response.

          Why is it that this “rift” (as you describe it) is purposefully hidden when it involves Asians and blacks, but is the centerpiece of focus when it involves whites vs. any other group?

          Interestingly enough, I’ve also seen comments expressed that white people are also the cause of, and bear responsility for rifts between groups of color.

          I assume that this goes back to the belief that white people are uniquely “privileged”, and therefore bear some unique responsibility that goes along with that “privilege” – including rifts that have nothing to do with white people (at least, until some bogus connection is made)?

          Given all of the responsibility and blame directed toward white people (mostly from other white people who are apparently much more enlightened), I’m not so sure I’d describe being white as “privileged”, at this point.

        7. Alan Miller

          You completely missed one of Alan’s critical points –

          I didn’t make that point.  I just parroted something I’d heard on the radio.  Could be right, could be wrong.  Could be up, could be brown.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Asians are far more vulnerable and in most ways – except some groups economically – far more like other people of color, than whites.

    That’s another attempt at controlling the message.  And it’s utterly false (except for recent arrivals, probably from some Asian countries more than others).

    This is part of that attempt to create a “people of color” category, vs. “whites”.  (It simply doesn’t work.) Of all of the attempts that people with particular views have tried, this is one of the weakest (by far).

    Who do you think is the largest group at UC Davis, for example?

    1. David Greenwald

      “That’s another attempt at controlling the message. And it’s utterly false (except for recent arrivals, probably from some Asian countries more than others).”

      Given the stats on hate crimes, how is it utterly false?

    2. Ron Oertel

      This, by the way, is also a reason that Affirmative Action proposals are doomed to failure.  It can no longer be framed as a “white” vs. “black” issue.

      Regarding the statistics on hate crimes, I believe that Boudin is not pursuing those for the crimes we’ve recently witnessed against Asians, nor is it being pursued regarding the incident in Oakland, I think. Why do you suppose that is?

  4. Ron Oertel

    By the way, remember this?

    https://abc7news.com/video-elderly-asian-man-attacked-while-collecting-cans-in-san-francisco/5964588/

    This is a result of an Asian man who has not had an opportunity to avoid this neighborhood, or perhaps did not understand the danger he faced there.

    I don’t recall if hate crime enhancements were ultimately included, but it certainly should have been. Disgusting.

    But what’s more disgusting is the denial which occurs, by some with particular political views. This angers me, and it’s the same thing I’ve witnessed for years. (Amplified, recently.)

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