Asian-Americans across the United States have seen an increase in discrimination, harassment, and hate-crimes tied to the pandemic, fearmongering, and general racism against Asians. These attacks have caused Asian Americans, who considered themselves a mostly invisible minority, to speak out more about the hatred and discrimination they have faced.
Community leaders across the country call for more stringent adherence to current hate-crime laws, better connections between Asian communities and police departments in charge of hate crimes, and other Americans to consider how their words and actions impact the roughly 21 million Asian Americans living in the United States. High-profile Asian Americans are using their platform to highlight – and fight – these problems. Asian American journalists are spreading the word about the discrimination they have faced. Their experiences and efforts have caused for more demands for the government to take action against the growing problem.
The pandemic has been a particular thorn in the side for Asian Americans, which has shown how even “simple” discrimination, such as blaming the virus on China, can lead to violence. Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California says that the fight against the so-called “bamboo ceiling” has become an issue of physical safety for Asian Americans.
“For a large number of Asian Americans, especially the young generation, they’re now seeing for the first time actual violence directed at them or their grandparents,” Lieu said. “It’s highly disturbing.”
President Joe Biden issued an executive order condemning Asian hate crimes, particularly coronavirus hate crimes, and criticized former President Donald Trump and others who referred to coronavirus as the “China Virus,” but didn’t name anyone directly. The executive order calls for better data collection to understand hate crime statistics better. The order mandates that federal agencies must fight “racism, xenophobia, and intolerance” towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, also known as AAPI.
“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,” Biden wrote in the order. “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.”
There have been several Asian hate crimes in recent weeks and months, including when an 84-year-old Thai American was brutally shoved in San Francisco and later died of his injuries. Another incident from January saw police in Oakland, California, said that a man had pushed three elderly people to the ground, knocking one out. A 36-year-old Asian man was recently stabbed in New York’s Chinatown district and was taken to hospital due to their critical condition. The NYPD says the person behind the attack faces charges of attempted murder as a hate crime and assault as a hate crime.
The surge in Asian hate crimes became a significant issue during the pandemic, especially during the winter when then-President Trump doubled down on his attacks against China, blaming the country – and Asians as a collective – for the spread of coronavirus in the United States.
The racism and discrimination that came with the pandemic come on top of the devastation the pandemic has done to some parts of the Asian and Pacific Islander community, including the closure of health-related business and the deaths of 67 Filipino registered nurses. This statistic is alarming as it accounts for 31% of all nursing deaths, even though Filipino nurses account for only 4% of all nurses in the United States. Pacific Islanders are third in terms of total coronavirus deaths, behind Native Americans and African-Americans.
Some Asian immigrants who have come to the country to escape mainland China’s dictatorship have come to terms with casual racism. They see it as part of the price they pay for being able to enter the country. At least, this is what Cat Shieh, an anti-hate coordinator with Asian Americans Advancing Justice of Chicago, says. Even if most incidents (90%) don’t reach the point of meeting the hate crime definition, these incidents are still dehumanizing for Asian Americans and need to stop. If anything, this is a sign that hate crime laws need to be updated. For 90% of incidents to not count as hate crimes are too much.
A recently-released federal report shows how skewed hate crime statistics are as roughly 40% of hate crimes go unreported. Victims say they believe that the police don’t care much about the issue and treat it as a low priority.
The report was published by the Hate Crimes Encofrcement and Prevention Initiative and showed that 87% of police agencies taking part in the FBI’s voluntary collection of Hate Crime Statistics reported no hate crimes in 2017, despite the fact such a feat would be statistically impossible.
The report compared the federal statistics against a national crime victim survey, showing that while the public reported an average of 204,600 hate crimes, the FBI only counted 7,500 victims because most incidents went unreported and not investigated or weren’t submitted to the database. The report included data from 2009 to 2017. It urged lawmakers to emphasize that front-line officers should treat hate crimes as seriously as they treat assaults, shootings, robberies, rapes, and school violence.
The FBI has yet to release hate crime statistics for 2020 because data collection takes time, but it is unlikely to paint a pretty picture.