By Ishani Desai
A new study found that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 80% in LA County during the past three months of 2021 when compared to 2020.
The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found that this rise also occurred mostly at a time when interactions between people are few because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the crimes are classified as verbal harassment, avoidance or shunning, and physical assault.
Many crimes go under-reported, said Chris Lu, the co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the Obama Administration. Approximately 86% of police jurisdictions reported no hate crimes at all last year, Lu added.
Hate crimes are reported to sources other than police offices. Around 3800 hate crimes against Asian Americans occurred over the past year, with 500 in this year alone, Lu said.
The confusion stems from the ambiguous definition of hate crimes. Reporting hate crimes can also prove to be difficult because there is no central place to consolidate every instance.
“Unfortunately, there’s no uniform database for collecting anti-Asian attacks, most of the data that we have is based on self-reporting from a website called Stop AAPI Hate, as well as our website at StandAgainstHatred.org,” John C. Yang, the president and executive director of civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC.
From March 2020 to February 2021, the Stop AAPI Hate reported almost 3,800 crimes. However, the organization also said this number is a fraction of the total crimes committed.
Racism against Asian Americans has existed since many immigrated to America.
“This is not something that is a new phenomenon,” said Chris Lu, the co-chair of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the Obama Administration. “For as long as Asians have been in America, we have been the target of attacks based on country of origin.”
A nationwide reckoning occurred when an Atlanta gunman shot up an establishment killing eight people, including six Asian women. At a press conference, the deputy communications director for the Sheriff’s department claimed that the gunman was having “a really bad day” and had a “sex addiction” that motivated the killings.
These comments caused a national outpouring of grief against the mischaracterization of these crimes and prompted many in the AAPI community to hold a rally in the LA Koreatown at the end of March. Voices chanted “stop Asian hate” and “enough is enough”. Rallies took place all over the world to speak out against targeted attacks.
Many experts linked this increase to the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump and the coronavirus. Furthermore, a Pew Research Center study said that 20% of Asian-American adults attributed the hate crimes to Donald Trump’s use of “kung-flu” or “Chinese flu”.
“Unfortunately, what you have is politicians who want to exploit this all for political gain.” Lu said. “A president consistently used terms like China virus and Kung Flu even though he was warned not to use this and was told that this would lead to levels of attacks against Asian Americans.”
The Pew Research Center report also said that one-third of Asian-Americans reported fear of violent attacks against them. Around 45% of Asian adults said they experienced offensive incidents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These murders have caused anxiety and fear throughout the Asian Americans community — all around the country,” Lu said. “The desired impact of hate crimes is to cause that level of fear.”
Many respondents said that the model minority myth creates the illusion that Asian-Americans are free of any persistent racism. The term perpetuates a stereotype against Asian-Americans that claims they are all math geniuses or tech wizards that face no hardships in their life, according to learningforjustice.org.
This fact ignores legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act that banned Chinese immigrants from descending upon America’s shores or the executive order that enabled Japanese internment. Racism against Asian-Americans has always existed.
This fact scrubs over the nuances within the Asian-American community. There are several types of ethnicities within the race, all with different experiences, according to learningforjustice.org.
The lack of support throughout America demonstrates that the onus to help Asian-Americans falls upon every person.
“It’s going to fall upon all of us to step in,” Lu said. “Far too many of these actions happen because bystanders look the other way. It all goes back to if you see something, say something.
Ishani Desai is a writer for the LA Vanguard’s campus and city desk. She is a history major at UCLA, originally from Bakersfield, CA.
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