Asian & Pacific Islander Hate Crime Increase

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Photographs courtesy of BBC.com

According to the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by nearly 150% as of late. To put that into perspective, the general number of hate crimes in 2020 decreased by 7%, while the rate in areas with Asian populations has only sharply risen.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, hate crime rates against the Asian community have been remarkably high. With the previous U.S. president referring to the coronavirus as the “kung-flu,” the anti-Asian sentiments were encouraged from the start. Recently, the Atlanta spa shootings were highlighted as one of many examples for racially-charged violence against Asians, with many attacks directed at Asian-owned businesses. Also concerning are istances of law enforcement officers minimizing the relevance of race as a factor, with (since removed) Cherokee Count spokesperson Captain Jay Baker claiming that “[The attacker] was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope…yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” The concern here is that the blatant choice to disconnect the harm being done to these individuals from their race is encouraging the normalization of these hate  crimes.

The effects this has had on the students on campus are clear as well, since there is an ever-growing fear that Asian individuals could be harmed at any given point. UIS Computer Science Major Ying Chen had this to say regarding her concerns with the spike in Asian hate crimes: “Asians were taught to be submissive and avoid conflict. In most cases, we can’t report…It’s almost as if minorities of any group need to project their voices as a whole community to be heard, when that shouldn’t be needed.” She emphasized that “our elderly are afraid to walk the streets in their own Chinatown. Women are afraid to go to work and service people see them as viruses. Even walking around campus, I feel anxious because of my visible ethnicity. Let our voices be heard.” The impact of these events on the Asian community is unmistakable but it goes deeper than that. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian individuals have been targeted all over the US, and the fear and destruction have only increased.

The acknowledgement of these crimes has improved since Joe Biden was elected president.            Biden urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, effectively expediting responses of the federal government towards the crimes and improving reporting efforts. Vice President Kamala Harris intends to take further actions to condemn anti-Asian violence as well, emphasizing that, “[f]or the last year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans — people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate.” However, despite everything being done, none of it has been quite enough. Students such as Ying agree that this response is well overdue, with the #StopAsianHate movement only just making a dent in long-existing discrimination.

The next big question is this: what can be done? Genuinely, the best answer is to talk about it. Making it clear how disturbing these acts are can help address the issue and resolve it. From publicly acknowledging it to discussing it with peers, the responsibility to bring attention to the racism against Asians resides with everyone so that legal action might be taken in more of these situations. In loving memory of those lost to these hate crimes, this is what is needed to invoke change.

Sources:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/Presidential-actions/2021/01/26/memorandum-condemning-and-combating-racism-xenophobia-and-intolerance-against-asian-americans-and-pacific-islanders-in-the-united-states/

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/978496038/what-statistics-tell-us-about-anti-asian-bias-crimes

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/anti-asian-hate-crimes-increased-nearly-150-2020-mostly-n-n1260264

https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/21/world/anti-asian-hate-crime-intl/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/17/us/shooting-atlanta-acworth#bad-day-captain-jay-baker-atlanta

https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/19/politics/biden-harris-atlanta/index.html