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Brief # 10 Social Justice

Political Comments About Coronavirus Help Spark Rise in Asian-American Hate Crimes

By Erika Shannon

March 29,2021

Over the course of the past year, there has been a rise in the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans. This is being credited to COVID-19 originating in Asia, along with the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump. Trump often referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” on Twitter, and continued to defend his use of the term at a later press conference. While he finally agreed to not use the term, it had already done damage; it sparked a Twitter movement of anti-Asian sentiment and gave some people the fuel they needed to take that hate off the web and into the real world. According to The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes spiked from 49 crimes resulting in charges in 2019 to 122 crimes in 2020. The findings are particularly disturbing because overall hate crimes actually dropped by 7% in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic and associated business and school closures. In 2021, the racism towards Asian Americans seems to unfortunately not be slowing down.

This year, we have already seen Asian Americans being targeted, and sometimes murdered, due to prejudices that can be partially associated to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its origins. In recent news, a 37-year-old Asian American woman was on her way to a rally against anti-Asian violence when she was attacked. The man approached her and asked for her sign, proceeding to rip it up and throw it in the trash. When the woman asked him to stop, he punched her twice in the face. Since the incident, 27-year-old Erick Deoliveira has been charged with a hate crime.

Prior to this incident, a 38-year-old man by the name of Elias Guerrero was arrested for punching a 66-year-old Asian man in the face and striking a 54-year-old Asian woman with a metal pipe. He was charged with assault as a hate crime, harassment, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, and criminal possession of a controlled substance. A few weeks ago, an 83-year-old Asian American woman was punched in the face and spit at in New York. While the attack was unprovoked and there is no clear evidence that it was motivated by hate, it is troubling nonetheless due to the disturbing uptick in attacks against those of Asian descent. In New York City alone, there have been 29 incidents of hate reported against Asian Americans just this year, according to the NYPD.

The crimes we are seeing committed against Asian Americans do not always end with people’s lives being spared. On March 20, a 27-year-old Asian American woman was gunned down in Compton, California. With the rise in prejudice, her family wants the murder to be investigated as a possible hate crime. This is not an outrageous request with all things considered, and while the investigation is ongoing, hopefully some light can eventually be shed on her needless murder.

On March 16, there was a mass shooting in the Atlanta area that took place in three different massage parlors. Eight victims succumbed to their wounds, and six of those victims were of Asian descent. While again, there has not yet been an official link announced between Asian American prejudice due to the pandemic and the mass shooting, the facts are still disturbing and have left many reeling in its wake. With tensions and hate already on the rise, crimes like these are senseless and may serve to foster fear in the Asian American community.

While there has been a large rise in hate crimes towards Asian Americans, we have also seen a movement emerge to combat these crimes. Large companies, such as Amazon, are using their platforms and influence to spread messages of positivity towards Asian and Pacific Island communities here in America. Many organizations have also surfaced to put forth information and put racist stereotypes about Asians to rest. California State University has formed a Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and put efforts into combatting anti-Asian sentiment. The organization “Stop AAPI Hate” has also become a resource for those who would like to get involved, donate, or report incidents of hate. From March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021, the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center received 3,795 incident reports of discrimination and harassment against Asian Americans. The types of discrimination they report include verbal harassment, physical assault, civil rights violations, and online harassment. The only way to combat hate is to educate and spread correct information, which we finally see being done on a larger scale. March 26, 2021 was deemed the #StopAsianHate Virtual Day of Action and Healing, and there is hope that raising awareness can stop these heinous and uncalled for attacks against our fellow Americans of Asian descent.

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