Danielle C., journalist
Anti-Asian hate crimes, racially motivated crimes that discriminately target not only those of Asian descent but their property as well, have become an urgent matter of discussion in the past two years. Also known as “Covid-related hate crimes,” throughout the past year, such crimes–ranging from verbal assault and harassment to physical violence–have increased a shocking 339%. This drastic surge has been seen in every city across the nation, characterizing a dramatic change that began to rise and become increasingly present rapidly around March 2020, when the pandemic became more serious.
Since the start of the pandemic, the nation has seen a surge in racially-motivated hate crimes so dramatic that Stop AAPI hate, a nonprofit advocacy group that established a self-report function on its website, has “received more than 2,800 reports of hate incidents directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide last year.” Those of Asian descent have faced not only verbal harassment, shunning, and physical assault, but also discrimination in the workforce, refusal from certain services, being coughed andspat on in public regions, physical damage to their property, and murder. The animosity associated with Covid-19 displays a positive correlation with these attacks, indicating the presence of underlying anger and resentment that serve as the motivating factors for individuals to commit such crimes. In one example of this during the summer of 2020, “an Asian restaurant in New Jersey was vandalized with graffiti reading ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’.”
The director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, professor Brian Levin, has stated that these instances of harassment and assault “generally … are most pronounced in large densely populated coastal cities with high Asian populations and extensive mass transit systems.” The big cities of New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have taken the lead in the number of incidents; New York City alone accounted for nearly half of the 274 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. Even worse, in 2021, the New York count alone rose to 538 reported incidents. Los Angeles reported a 70% increase in hate crimes as well.
Asian Americans have been berated as the cause for Covid-19, in which the degree of these crimes have included the use of verbal insults like “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” and much worse. Instances of racially-motivated attacks include an 84-year-old Thai immigrant who passed away due to injuries after being violently shoved to the ground and an 89-year-old woman who was set on fire by two men in New York. In January of this year, a man attacked 40-year-old Michelle Go, who was waiting for the subway in Times Square, and “shoved her to the tracks as a train screeched into the station, killing her.”
The heightening of racial tensions and discrimination have been exacerbated by resentment caused by the pandemic, and the weight of these crimes should not be taken lightly. Steps should be taken to further support organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate and local initiatives such as the Human Relations Commission works to defuse racial tensions and New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, and raising awareness and understanding the profoundness of this issue serves as the first step toward eradicating these anti-Asian hate crimes.