Despite the increasing awareness and calls to end anti-Asian hate, crimes targeting the AAPI community continue to increase nationwide. While xenophobia against the community is not a new phenomenon, there has been a rapid increase in crimes against Asian Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to misinformation. The rate at which these crimes are increasing is more alarming with every data report released.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, the total number of anti-Asian incidents reported during the pandemic last year has doubled by March alone. In California, the increase is even higher. A new report from the state’s Department of Justice found that hate crimes against Asian Americans in California increased by over 100% in 2020.
“For too many, 2020 wasn’t just about a deadly virus. It was about an epidemic of hate,” Rob Bonta, the state’s first Filipino American attorney general said, at a news conference Wednesday.
According to the report released by the state attorney general Wednesday, attacks against the AAPI community rose by 107%. Overall hate crimes in the state increased by 31%. The report also indicated an increase in hate crimes reported to law enforcement. According to the Department of Justice, a hate crime is defined as a criminal act motivated at least in part by a characteristic such as race, gender, or religion.
While reporting hate crimes is now increasing, researchers have connected a previous decline to both cultural norms and mistrust of officials, a stigma many community advocates are working to end. California saw a total of 89 hate crimes against Asian Americans reported in 2020, compared to 43 from the previous year. Of the reported crimes, 72 were violent, an increase of 125% from just 31 in 2019, the report said.
The report supports other studies of the rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans following Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric. Hate crime data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino found that hate crimes against Asian Americans surged in 2020 in at least 15 cities, Daily Kos reported. As the cities were further reviewed, a new report indicated that crimes against Asian Americans rose by 169% when comparing the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.
As president, Trump consistently blamed China for the pandemic which furthered anti-Asian sentiment already present in some communities. His spread of COVID-19 misinformation and use of xenophobic language like “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and “Kung Flu” have been connected to a rapid surge in hate crimes nationwide. As people were forced to stay-at-home due to safety measures in place they took their frustration out on the AAPI community which they blamed for the virus, the report said.
“Asian Americans are often stereotyped as perpetual foreigners, anti-American, and carriers of infectious disease,” the report said. “These stereotypes in turn have fueled racist beliefs that Asians are responsible for introducing COVID-19 to the United States.”
According to The Los Angeles Times, talks about anti-Asian violence garnered momentum this year following the Atlanta shooting, in which six Asian women were murdered. While that incident received nationwide coverage, it doesn’t dismiss the lack of coverage of anti-Asian crimes across the country. To date, at least one crime against the APPI community occurs daily, yet rarely are they covered on the news.
“I have felt almost gaslit by the lack of coverage,” one source told The New York Times, after the Atlanta-area massacre. “I’ve been sitting here all day wondering, ‘Why now? Why today?’ We’ve been talking about this for a year. Why does it take these Asian women being slaughtered for people to suddenly pay attention?”
In California specifically, anti-Asian crimes have been at an all-time high with a majority of incidents targeting the elderly or women. The New York Times traces back xenophobia in California to horrific historical events including the lynchings of Chinese residents in Los Angeles in 1871, or the state’s championing of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
In addition to the rise in crimes against the Asian American community, the report found that hate crimes against Black people rose by 88% while anti-Latino crimes rose by 38%.
In response to the increasing number of crimes against minorities in the state, Bonta has developed prosecutor guidance and a law enforcement bulletin to ensure that state and local authorities can better respond to hate crimes. Additionally, he has released hate crime brochures in 25 languages to help victims and members of the public report crimes and seek assistance.
Carl Chan, president of Oakland’s Chinatown Chamber of Commerce praised Bonta for his efforts and said: ”We realize that there are many, many recognize many victims of crime, including myself.”
Chan, who was attacked in April, urged others to come forward and noted that he felt confident that the brochures would help increase reporting of such incidents.
"Please, don't be afraid," Chan said. "We are here together. We have to be united. We have to work together. Together, we can make changes."
The AAPI community needs our support now more than ever, whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends. Hate is the real virus and we must end it.