Hate crimes on Asian Americans spike in number

Violence and discrimination result from racist rhetoric


Artwork by Mina Jung

On Jan. 31, a man was caught on camera violently shoving a 91-year-old Asian American man in Oakland, CA’s Chinatown. The victim, who was suddenly pushed to the ground from behind, sustained multiple cuts, abrasions and a contusion to the thumb. That very same day, the suspect also pushed a 60-year-old man and 55-year-old woman to the ground, both of them also Asian American. 

This attack is one among a sudden rise in the number of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the country. According to USA Today, the organizations Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice have collectively recorded more than 3,000 anti-Asian attacks since March, around the time when the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in the United States. Overall, hate crimes that target Asian Americans have risen by 150% in major U.S. cities according to VOA news.

Many activists, including several Asian American actors, are currently arguing that these hate crimes are not getting enough media attention. 

“The skyrocketing number of hate crimes against Asian Americans continues to grow, despite our repeated pleas for help. The crimes ignored and even excused. Remember Vincent Chin. #EnoughisEnough,” actor Daniel Dae Kim tweeted.  

Vincent Chin, whom Kim referenced from his tweet, was an important figure in the Asian American rights movement. In 1982, Chin was killed by two white autoworkers. He was only 27 years old. 

“It’s because of you little m——s that we’re out of work,” one of the attackers allegedly said. At the trial, the killers only received a $3,000 fine and no jail time. The sentencing sparked national outrage. 

Kim and fellow actor Daniel Wu offered a $25,000 reward to anyone who could help identify the person involved in the murder. However, investigators revealed that the suspect had been in custody since Monday, Feb. 8 — the day after the Jan. 31 Chinatown attacks. Oakland police identified him as Yahya Muslim, who has been charged with three counts of assault and multiple counts of elder abuse. 

“The Vincent Chin case, along with other cases, each serve as a wake-up call to address anti-Asian bias and racial intolerance,” Roland Hwang, the co-founder and former president of American Citizens for Justice, said in an interview with NBC News

Nearly 40 years after Chin’s death, hate crimes against Asian-Americans are once again on the rise in the United States. A U.N. report also showed that there were more than 1,800 racist incidents alone against Asian-Americans from March to May of 2020. 

The violence has continued into 2021. An 84-year-old Thai American man named Vicha Ratanapakdee was killed in an attack in San Francisco; a 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman was assaulted in broad daylight in San Jose and robbed of more than $1,000 in cash she had taken out for the upcoming Lunar New Year celebration; in New York, 61-year-old Filipino American Noel Quintana was slashed in the face with a box cutter while riding the subway.

An elderly man approached Oak Park High School senior David Shiang while he was playing basketball in his front yard. While it wasn’t a physical altercation, Shiang did feel concerned. 

“I wore a mask to be safe in case any people were walking by, and an elderly man walked near me and began asking me a lot of questions. One of them was ‘You are wearing a mask, do you have the virus?’ This man was not outright being threatening, but the way he carried himself felt concerning. I was afraid of being hurt because I did not know what to expect from this person,” Shiang wrote to the Talon. 

The rise in hate crimes began to increase more notably since the pandemic, with many blaming the Trump administration. According to Business Insider, Trump appeared “to validate the perpetrators’ bigotry,” with him and several other members of his White House staff using racist and xenophobic phrases referring to the COVID-19 virus as the “Wuhan virus” and “China virus.” 

“There has been a false notion suggesting that the Asian community does not experience much racial discrimination. However the statistics clearly show how racial stigma and discrimination towards the AAPI community does in fact occur. It is the responsibility of every citizen to stand up against racism and pursue justice,” Shiang wrote. 

The Biden administration has begun to take steps in order to reverse the previous administration’s legacy. In January, President Biden signed an executive order denouncing any kind of discrimination toward Asian American and Pacific Islander groups. The order includes guidance on how to respond to the number of anti-Asian incidents, such as steps to ensure that official actions, documents or statements do not contribute to racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Manju Kulkarni is the executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, who explained that this initiative was a real first step to make sure action was being taken to assist AAPI communities. 

“I think these are very promising,” Kulkarni told NBC News about the actions laid out in the president’s directive. “And I think it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”

Even if you aren’t Asian American or Pacific Islander, you can still be an ally. Non-AAPI citizens can help by simply acknowledging the recent news of anti-Asian violence, and give space for impacted people to process, grieve and heal, supporting AAPI businesses such as restaurants, shops and supermarkets and donating money to organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate.  

“I’d love to see people get engaged for the long haul, not just in this moment of crisis. We see it all the time, even with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, people pay attention when there’s a traumatic event, but after the news cycle is over you have to keep asking: What are you going to do to continue your commitment to being anti-racist?” said Michelle Kim, CEO of the diversity training provider Awaken in an interview with CNBC.