An incident used as an example in a report detailing the rise of xenophobia and crimes against Asian Americans as the novel coronavirus spreads across the country is being investigated as a possible hate crime. A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has prompted law enforcement to warn individuals of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, ABC News reported. The analysis report details an incident in Midland, Texas, in which a Texas man allegedly tried to kill an Asian American family at a Sam’s Club because of fear of the novel coronavirus.
The incident took place on March 14, when 19-year-old Sam’s Club employee Jose Gomez allegedly stabbed three Asian American family members, including a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old. His coworker, Zach Owen, intervened and was injured in the process of saving the family’s lives, police said. Gomez “indicated that he stabbed the family because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus,” the FBI said in its report. In total, Gomez faces three counts of attempted capital murder, and one count of aggravated assault; he could also face hate crime charges, the FBI told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.
According to an arrest affidavit, Owen tried to stop the assault but was stabbed in the leg with a knife and suffered hand injuries, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported. Despite this, he managed to get a hold of Gomez. Gomez was then detained by off-duty Border Patrol Agent Bernie Ramirez, who was shopping in the store. Ramirez told CBS7 his initial thought was that a fight was occurring over the lack of items available for purchase, and he went over to “break it up.” Ramirez added that credit was due to Owen for defusing the situation: "He went into a knife fight bare-handed," Ramirez said. "He took control of the individual, and he disarmed him. If Zach had not been there, things could’ve gone really badly.”
As noted by BuzzFeed News, authorities are handling the case as a possible hate crime. A spokesperson from the FBI added that the agency will be investigating and holding all those who commit violent actions accountable. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to remind everyone that any violent criminal act against any person because of their race, ethnicity or national origin is a hate crime," the spokesperson said. "This includes violence toward Asian Americans or individuals from East Asian countries."
The Texas stabbing incident is not isolated. It is just one example of the many cases of xenophobia Asian Americans are experiencing in addition to the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. Hate crimes are at an all-time high nationwide. A new website, Stop AAPI Hate, which was launched by Russell Jeung, a professor at San Francisco State University in order to document racist acts, received more than 650 reports within eight days of its launch. "We found hundreds of articles about policies that people thought were xenophobic, economic boycotts of Asian businesses and then later on about interactions that Asian Americans were having where people were bullying, taunting, harassing and now attacking," Jeung told NPR. According to Jeung, the site receives at least 100 reports a day.
Our administration is not helping but instead adding to the fire. President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” Instead of apologizing and retracting his offensive words, Trump defended his statement, claiming it was not racist. "'Cause it comes from China. It's not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that's why. I want to be accurate," Trump said, according to CNN.
Backlash against the administration continues for the repeated dehumanizing and xenophobic language that has caused harm to many Asian Americans. While Trump continues to deny that his use of the term “Chinese virus” has created stigma around Asian Americans, he issued a statement on Twitter to protect the Asian American community last week: "It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world," Trump wrote on Twitter. "They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!"
Yet, as always, his tweets and actions are never consistent with one another. Trump has failed to issue an apology for his influence in the rise of hate crimes, in addition to an apology to Asian Americans for casting the blame of this pandemic on their community. Hate crimes should not be tolerated and no community should face any form of violence for their mere existence. The use of inappropriate language and misinformation about COVID-19 only increases fear and further endangers Americans who are already at risk from this virus. Fear and panic should not drive us to hurt one another, violence is not the answer—education about how this disease is spread and what we can do to prevent it is. Leaders must speak up against the spread of hate, not add to the fuel with misinformation, “fake news,” and a lack of common sense.