By Alula Nugese
Recently, anti-Asian hate crimes and violence have spiked across the United States. The data suggests these increases are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-Asian rhetoric this pandemic has brought upon the Asian population in America.
According to the California State University’s Center for Hate and Extremism, in the 16 most populated cities in the United States, hate crimes increased about 150% from 2019-2020. This massive increase in hate crimes has led to protestors speaking out against this violence, creating relatively new widespread advocacy.
The cause of this spike may be more than just the pandemic’s economic and social effects in the United States. Many people are pointing to the politicians’ constant blaming of China as to why we are seeing these crimes increase so dramatically.
“I think the political leadership under Trump really put a target on the backs of people perceived to be Chinese. It’s Sinophobia,” said Chris Kwok, a board member of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, in an interview with VOA news.
Kwok is referring to Trump’s sly comments towards China throughout 2020. Whether it was calling COVID-19 “China virus” or constantly blaming China for the pandemic’s effect on Americans, his comments may have resulted in an increase of hate crimes towards the East Asian population in the United States.
On March 16, a series of mass shootings occurred at three spas/ massage parlors in Atlanta. Eight people were killed, six of which were Asian women. The senseless violence has led to nationwide protests against AAPI hate. (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) Stop AAPI Hate is a non-profit coalition founded in 2020 dedicated to standing against racism that Asian-American communities have faced more frequently due to the pandemic.
On February 9, the co-founders of the coalition said, “These violent assaults have a devastating impact on our community as they are part of an alarming rise in anti-Asian American hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Hate crimes have become more frequent in recent years, which may be attributed to political events/ rhetoric. Since the 2016 election, The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported a 12.5% increase in hate crimes from 2016-2017. Although there are usually spikes during election years, 2017 was the only year where hate crimes continued to rise after the election was over.
Physical violence has been present during the last year, but so has the verbal harassment towards Asian people. Many Asian-owned businesses are receiving violent threats, making these employees fear leaving work at night. Oriental Wok, a Chinese restaurant with two locations in the Cincinnati area, posted a message on social media discussing the harassment they have endured during the past year. “Our homes and cars have been egged, we are pummeled with daily calls telling us to ‘Go back to China’ along with other crude and violent threats,” said the Wong Family.
This issue has received recognition from the Biden administration, who have condemned all acts of violence against Asian-Americans. Prominent voices are speaking up about this issue, but it seems this country has a long way to go before real change is evident.