Advocates Collect Nearly 1,500 Reports Of Anti-Asian Racism In The U.S. Over The Past Month

Across the U.S., Asian Americans are experiencing racist harassment and discrimination tied to the COVID-19 crisis.
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A group of Asian American organizations documenting the surge of racist incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic received nearly 1,500 reports of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination over the last month, they said in a new report released Friday.

In mid-March, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University launched STOP AAPI HATE, creating a form for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to report incidents of racism related to the coronavirus.

In the first four weeks, they collected 1,497 incidents, including being called racial slurs, being refused service, being spat on, and being physically assaulted 鈥 a reflection of 鈥渢he pain, humiliation, trepidation and fear in the voices of AAPIs today,鈥 A3PCON executive director Manjusha Kulkarni said in a statement.

The reported incidents were from across the country 鈥 45 states and Washington, D.C. 鈥 with 58% taking place in California and New York, which both have large Asian American populations.

About 70% of the cases involved verbal harassment, 24% involved shunning, and 8.5% involved physical assault, and several involved multiple types of attacks.

鈥淚 was getting in my car after shopping wearing a mask and gloves. A truck drove by and threw a [fast food franchise] drink on my back and yelled 鈥渉ey chink, you鈥檙e f鈥昸ing nasty,鈥欌 one incident report reads.

Another respondent said that at a post office, a 鈥渕iddle aged Caucasian woman [was] mumbling 鈥榝鈥昸ing Chinese鈥 around my wife (Chinese) and threw a bag at her.鈥 The assailant 鈥渁lso walked up to [the] window to give all Asian employees the middle finger. My wife was distraught and left.鈥

Nearly 10% of the incidents involved a potential civil rights violation, like workplace discrimination or being refused service at a business or on public transportation or ride-sharing services.

Based on the incident reports, AAPI women were more than twice as likely to be harassed than men.

Among the most concerning trends is the high proportion of cases that involve more vulnerable populations, such as children, older people and people who speak limited English, said Dr. Russell Jeung, chair of the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University.

For example, one incident report involves a person witnessing a racist incident during jury selection in March, involving 鈥渁n older Taiwanese man鈥 and an 鈥渆lderly Caucasian judge.鈥

鈥淭he judge asked the man what his son did. The man replied in 鈥榖roken鈥 English that his son had recently returned from teaching English in China,鈥 the report reads. 鈥淭he judge joked, 鈥榃ell, I hope he didn鈥檛 bring anything back.鈥 The room chuckled and I chuckled half-heartedly, even though I didn鈥檛 think it was funny.鈥

People over the age of 60 were involved in 8% of the reported incidents. Some reports indicated that the respondents were filling out the form on behalf of their older family members.

鈥淢y elderly parents were walking with my two-year-old and some 20-30-year-olds drove by and screamed 鈥淔鈥昸 China!!鈥 at the stop light,鈥 one report reads. 鈥淭hey felt very unsafe, especially with a child.鈥

鈥淭his is a report for my elderly parents,鈥 another report begins. 鈥淭hey were shunned for wearing masks by an elderly Caucasian man. They were told, 鈥楪o back to China鈥 after telling him ... that wearing masks was encouraged by the government.鈥

Jeung also pointed to 鈥渢he impact of China-bashing by politicians鈥 as an alarming trend. As the coronavirus pandemic began to worsen in March, President Donald Trump and his allies repeatedly referred to the disease with racist rhetoric, calling it the 鈥淐hinese virus鈥 and the 鈥淲uhan virus.鈥 Over the last month, they have blamed China in an attempt to deflect attention from the Trump administration鈥檚 inadequate response to the pandemic.

The groups stressed that the data they鈥檝e amassed is just 鈥渁 snapshot of what AAPIs are experiencing on a daily basis,鈥 Cynthia Choi, the co-executive director of CAA, said in a statement, adding that 鈥渨e can expect the situation to worsen as the anti-China, anti-Chinese rhetoric becomes normalized.鈥

There have been mounting reports of racist attacks against people of Asian descent since late January, when the coronavirus outbreak swelled in China and began to spread globally. Growing fears over the disease exacerbated stigma and bigotry against Asian Americans, who have long faced racist stereotypes involving disease, including being described as 鈥the yellow peril鈥 in the 1800s.

The national data reflects similar trends from local and regional leaders. Earlier this week, officials for New York City鈥檚 Commission on Human Rights said they鈥檝e seen skyrocketing levels of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination: 105 reported incidents since February, compared to just five during the same period last year.

In recent weeks, federal law enforcement officials have warned there could be a potential surge in hate crimes and extremism against Asian Americans because of COVID-19. However, the Department of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not developed specific plans to address the racist attacks, despite having such plans during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and after 9/11, the Center for Public Integrity reported last week.

Certain states and municipalities have taken some action. In New York and Minnesota, officials have launched statewide hotlines for reporting harassment and discrimination related to the pandemic.

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