Ongoing Fear and Concern: The Rise of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes
by Andy Xie
As the cold air started to fade away into the spring breeze, I walked with my family to an anti-Asian hate rally near the outskirts of Chinatown. The sun glared, hitting my face with piercing rays. I heard a roar of shouts across the street. As I got closer to the roars, I realized what the loud shouts were for. My body shook and my eyes widened. I gazed at the sight of many people crowded in one area. A leap of excitement and comfort welcomed me as I joined the massive number of people. Signs of love and anger toward my race and culture boomed in people’s hands.
A smile slowly ran across my face as I told my sister how incredible it was that so many people were here. I was excited, but confused. I wondered how and why could there be so many people rallying for us? There were hundreds of people, young and old. Different races and different people gathered around to fight anti-Asian hate. Many thoughts rattled in my head and left me to the conclusion that there are people who care no matter who they are. I was surprised but was glad that there were other people that were helping the Asian community have a voice and to speak out.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there has been a huge lack of communication and social interaction. Fear has taken hold of people’s lives each day. But on top of that fear of health from COVID-19, Asian Americans are facing hate crimes over the past year at unprecedented levels in the United States and there are no signs of it stopping.
On February 25th, a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed on the streets of Manhattan Chinatown by a 23-year-old suspect. The suspect was charged with second-degree murder and faces 25 years in prison, but no hate crime charges were filed. Many Asian Americans were furious, and demanded the suspect be prosecuted for hate crimes. The suspect and the victim had no relation to each other.
Ann Zhang, an Asian American high school student notes, “The city is no longer safe, as government officials and law enforcement so often hesitate to classify blatant hate crimes against Asians as a ‘hate crime.’” She is afraid of letting the public see her face, concerned that attacks like these could affect her as an Asian American.
After the stabbing, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on February 27th, “We will NOT tolerate hatred and discrimination of Asian New Yorkers. Hate crimes go against everything we stand for in New York City.” Later that Friday, De Blasio encouraged many people to join a rally in New York City, Federal Plaza.
“This is an issue that should’ve been talked about long ago. Asian hate has been here for centuries and had already spiked last March. The facts are clear, Asian hate was never an issue that people cared about,” Zhang adds on.
Natalie, another Asian American high school student agreed, “Asian hate crimes have been going on even way before the pandemic has struck. It just took thousands of incidents against Asian Americans or Asians around the world for people to start listening to our voices and cry for help.”
In the year 2019, hate crimes against Asians in New York City had jumped from 3 to 28 incidents reported according to an analysis conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. They state that in the year 2020, hate crimes overall decreased by 7 percent while anti-Asian hate crimes have increased to a near 150 percent.
Spikes of Asian hate crimes started last March and April alongside COVID-19 and have continued that way. Many people have joked around about COVID-19, calling it the “Kung-flu” or the “Chinese virus.”
Donald Trump, the 45th former president of the United States fueled that hate during his presidency. In June 2020, during a re-election campaign in Dream City Church, Trump used the phrase “Kung-flu” to refer to COIVD-19. This was not the first and only time he used such phrases that directed micro-aggressions towards Asians. People in the church cheered and roared after his speech. Many people were disgusted with his speech, outraged at how people could cheer for such racist remarks.
Suki, an Asian American high school student also shows concern, “People blamed every Chinese people for the coronavirus. They would attack every Asian even if they're not Chinese and assume that they're Chinese, telling them to go back to China and say how it’s the ‘China flu.’” She added that her concerns grow more and more and that she is afraid to go outside because of how Trump calls COVID-19 the “Kung-flu.”
The frustration does not end there. On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings occurred in Atlanta, Georgia, that killed 8 people. The shootings took place in three spa parlors and six out of eight of the victims were Asian women.
Later that day, the 21-year-old suspect was taken into custody. The suspect told the police that he had “sexual addiction” and started shooting to eliminate those “desires.” He has been charged with 8 murders and assault. Many police officers state that it is too early to charge him for hate crimes even though there was a majority of Asians killed during the shooting.
Later that day, feelings of rage and anger spewed across the community. A Cherokee Sheriff’s Office official, Captain Jay Baker, said that the suspect was, “Pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” Captain Jay Baker felt the backlash and harsh criticism when he said that the suspect was having a “bad day.”
Natalie, the high school student, shares that same criticism, “I feel angry… the media made their life reduced to a 'bad day.' They deserve justice.” Natalie also adds that she feels hurt and sympathy for the victims and especially for their friends and families.
Later, many screenshots of Baker’s Facebook account showed signs of racism and promotion of racist comments on COVID-19. Screenshots showed that Baker liked a t-shirt that printed “COVID-19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”
“I feel very scared, sad, and angry about what's going on. I feel sorry for the family and loved
ones of the victims who passed and I'm angered that excuses are given,” Suki said.
Although these massive shootings and massacres have affected Asian Americans immensely, especially these past few months, Asian hate has been around for many years but has been ignored.
“I’ve always felt like racism towards Asians was normalized and brushed off at school— as in making jokes about our culture, language, the way we look, and the foods we ate,” Natalie said. “I remember being insecure in primary school to bring the food my parents cooked to school for lunch because it didn’t look like the same foods my classmates would eat.”
Asian Americans are feeling hate and aggression at a young age and no one seems to take it seriously. During the pandemic, the fear and racism toward Asian Americans had increased. Levels of anxiety and fear rose even more to what young Asian Americans already had. Students and families are afraid to step outside of their homes, afraid of the attacks and comments they may receive because of how they look or act.
Suki showed multiple signs of concern and worry ever since the pandemic started. “I was concerned because of the increasing amount of hate crimes I'm hearing about. I don't want to risk my life to go outside,” Suki said. For many like Suki, the rise of attacks on Asian Americans was not welcoming news.
On March 29th, a 65-year-old Asian woman was attacked and kicked in the stomach and head multiple times on the streets of New York. Natalie addresses her opinion about how Asian elders are attacked more frequently. She dislikes how older people are targeted the most because they are the “weakest” link. The victim recovered and was discharged while the suspect was charged with assault and anti-Asian hate crime.
Despite the hate and fear, many Asian Americans are gathering around in communities and finding the strength to push forward and disrupt hate crimes. Places all around the United States are protesting, rallying, and joining hands to fight back against racism.