By: Catherine He
In March 2020, something invisible to the human eye flooded the world to transform our lives forever. Unfortunately, one of the many changes that we were forced to endure included the rise in anti-Asian sentiment thanks to the misinformation surrounding the pandemic. From the unprecedented fury at the Asian community in the height of the virus, #StopAsianHate was born. The difficult task embodied in three simple words, #StopAsianHate is a movement consisting of a series of demonstrations, protests, and more in efforts to inform the public and detract violence against Asian Americans. All this time, the goal has been to put an end to xenophobia and hate crimes against members of the Asian community living in North America, especially in the United States. Now, over two years since the pandemic began and we saw the first spike in Asian hate crimes, let’s re-evaluate the situation and see where we’ve gone since the modern plague graced us with its presence.
The General Statistics
Before analyzing the statistics, it is important to understand what a hate crime actually is. According to the United States Department of Justice, a hate crime is “a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” Anti-Asian hate crimes are thus crimes motivated by negative racial bias.
Presented above is the trend in hate crimes from 2000 to 2020. A massive spike in hate crimes of all motivations can be seen from 2019 to 2020, and it’s not a coincidence that the spike happened when the pandemic began. Asian hate crimes, which are depicted by the top section in each bar, rose to a record high by a large margin of 345 incidents with 511 distinct victims. Hate crimes as a whole rose to an unprecedented 10,299 cases in just one year. What’s even more worrisome is that the FBI estimates that and it’s likely that thousands more were committed that didn’t get reported to law enforcement.
In 2022, over two years later, it may not seem like things have gotten much better. According to VOA via a police data compilation by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes in major US cities rose moderately during the first half of 2022 after double-digit percentage increases over the past few years. Taking into account the trend, if the increases seen this year continue, the nation will be on track to see the fourth consecutive year in which hate crimes have risen.
However, this year, Asian Americans have been the targets of hate crimes less frequently, albeit only in some parts of the country. Attacks surged to record levels last year but have now dropped in many major cities. For example, the number of crimes in New York City has decreased by 48% and that in Los Angeles has also fallen by 17%. This must mean that something is working.
Even still, we cannot let down our guard yet. While the Asian American community is thankful for decrease in incidents, Blacks, Jews, sexual minorities, and Latinos have become the most common targets of hate crimes. Safety only comes when we are all safe, and therefore we must continue our efforts to stop all hate.
The Asian American Experience
Borrowing analysis from Health Affairs, who reviewed twelve nationally representative public opinion polls to examine Asian Americans’ experiences with violence and racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are able to understand how the community has been feeling over the past two years.
Most Asian Americans (82%) agree that Asian Americans have faced discrimination as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the statistics regrettably match their sentiment. 70% say discrimination poses more of a threat now during than it did before the pandemic, while more than half (57%) of Asian Americans say they often or sometimes feel unsafe in public because of their race or ethnicity and only 12% say they never feel unsafe in public. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Asian Americans think that racism is an extremely or very serious problem in the US, while about half (53%) say Asian Americans face a great deal or quite a bit of discrimination in the US today.
Needless to say, the general consensus is that Asian Americans have felt negatively socially impacted by COVID-19, and rightfully so. Fear has been a common emotion that has constantly been at the back of the community’s minds as they navigate daily life.
Stop Asian Hate was born as a movement to denounce and do exactly what its name entails: stop hate in its track. This means NOT staying static and watching from afar; this means taking immediate and necessary action. It is highly probable that the decrease in anti-Asian hate crimes is attributed to reaction instead of typical inaction that we are sometimes conditioned to fall into. Phillip Lim, a top American fashion designer, has been a prominent face in the #StopAsianHate movement, and recommends this course of action as well.
““If you witness or you bear witness to injustice, say something. Stand up, stand up when you are not needed because this is how you play a role, too. Don’t wait till it is in dire need,” says Lim. He goes on to emphasize the importance of connection when confronting issues that are larger than any one person and community.
“We can actually win the fight against hate by making sure that we build a wall of just unity and solidarity and love for each other. We have to become our own superheroes.” concluded Lim.
In essence, we cannot simply be satisfied with the recent dip in hate crimes targeting the Asian community, because if you look at any Asian American news site, such as NextShark, this group is still being targeted frequently with devastating impacts. Undoubtedly, efforts across communities advocating to break the stigma are responsible, but there is still more to be done, both for this community and for those that are often swept under the rug because it is seen as “normal.” Hate is not normal – it’s a virus. This far into the pandemic, we know that this much is true. It is up to us to continue to our efforts now that we fully understand that the actions being taken have real and measurable implications. By doing so, we will be grateful for better news when the ‘3 years later’ mark hits.
Together, let’s continue to #StopAsianHate.