Although media coverage of anti-Asian attacks in America seems to have slowed over the last few months as the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has taken over the headlines, that doesn’t mean the violence has gone away. Despite Congress passing legislation to combat anti-Asian hate crimes, it has, unfortunately, only continued to spike.
According to reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate, reports of anti-Asian violence and biased harassment against the AAPI community have continued to surge in recent months alongside cases of the delta variant, with 9,081 anti-Asian hate crimes being reported since the pandemic began in March 2020. Over that 15-month period, Kimmy Yam of NBC News reported that data from Stop AAPI Hate revealed one-fourth of those attacks took place between April to June 2021.
In an interview with Yam, Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, blamed the continuing increase in attacks on “a combination of both people coming out of a pandemic and interacting more with the public.”
Based on Stop AAPI Hate’s most recent data, Yam reported that “verbal harassment made up 64% of the total incidents reported while shunning, the next-largest share, made up almost 17%. Physical assault was the third-largest category, constituting almost 14% of all incidents.”
“As seen in previous Stop AAPI Hate reports, these incidents most commonly occurred on public streets, the top site of anti-Asian hate at almost 32%. Businesses followed closely behind at just over 30%,” Yam reported.
While Jeung believes that attacks on Asian Americans are on the rise, he also told NBC News that tracking of anti-Asian hate crimes has also increased in recent months because people are becoming more aware of Stop AAPI Hate, using the platform to report incidents in an effort to stop the racism and discrimination.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder of AAPI Data, a policy and research nonprofit group, believes that increased awareness of anti-Asian attacks may also be a factor in the dramatic uptick in Stop AAPI Hate’s numbers. While anti-Asian hate is definitely a growing problem, he said it would take additional research to learn how significantly the problem is or isn’t growing.
“We need different types of data collection to be able to understand if there are changes, especially increases over time,” Ramakrishnan said. “How much of it is changing due to increased awareness or increased comfort in terms of reporting versus an increase based on other factors like greater exposure to risk based on reopening?”
Ramakrishnan also hypothesized that the problem may even be worse than what Stop AAPI Hate’s data appears to show, citing a recent online survey suggesting that upwards of 2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders “have experienced hate incidents since the pandemic began.”
According to Yam, the “survey showed that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were the least likely to report hate incidents compared to other groups. When asked how comfortable they would be reporting a hate crime to law enforcement authorities, just 30% of Asian Americans said they were ‘very comfortable’ doing so.”
In contrast, 54% of white respondents said they were “comfortable with police” and would have no problem reporting any attack they experienced to law enforcement.
Another interesting finding from the report: while many Asian Americans attributed an increase in anti-Asian bias to former President Donald Trump and his hate-filled rhetoric, Stop AAPI Hate found that anti-China sentiment has continued to manifest and grow even after he left office.
While the message has shifted somewhat, Jeung said a number of “political rhetoric and policies that are strongly anti-China” have allowed the hate to continue festering and grow.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, more than half of all Americans believe China is such a threat to the U.S. that we should “limit Chinese students’ study in the U.S.”
With results of a new investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 virus on the horizon, Jeung also believes that the report could bring Wuhan, China back into the headlines and lead to even further souring of American attitudes against the country — and people who may have ethnic backgrounds from the region.
“It’s why we began to track red-baiting incidents: We are concerned about this yellow peril rhetoric, where China’s sort of an existential threat to the U.S.,” he said. “We want the administration to balance any statement against the Chinese government with a pause to stop racism and also to address U.S.-China policies in a constructive way.”
“Whether perceived or real, foreign policy threats often end up hurting Asian American communities because of the perpetual foreigner stereotype,” Ramakrishnan added. “Regardless of what generation we’re talking about, different Asian Americans over time have been targeted, both through official actions as well as vigilante violence. That remains a significant concern.”