As Asian Americans around the country experience racist attacks tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City officials say there’s been a surge in local reports of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination: 105 reported incidents since February, compared to just five during the same period last year.
The city’s Commission on Human Rights released the numbers on Sunday when announcing a new response team dedicated to addressing a surge of harassment and discrimination related to the coronavirus. About 40% of the 248 reports the agency has received since February — ranging from discrimination against race, ethnicity, income and disability — have involved attacks against Asians.
There have been reports nationwide of racist attacks against Asian Americans since late January, when the coronavirus outbreak swelled in China and began to spread globally, exacerbating stigma and bigotry against people of Asian descent.
President Donald Trump and his allies, including administration officials, Republican lawmakers and right-wing media hosts, have repeatedly referred to the coronavirus using racist rhetoric like the “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus.”
Asian Americans have been subjected to racist stereotypes involving disease since at least the 19th century, including being described as “the yellow peril.”
Across the country, Asian Americans have reported being spat on, called racial slurs and physically assaulted. Even before most states enacted stay-at-home orders, shutting down most businesses, Asian-owned businesses began seeing steep declines in customers and revenue.
Last month, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University launched a form for Asian Americans across the country to report incidents of racist attacks. The groups received 1,135 reports in just two weeks.
Federal officials have warned of a potential surge in hate crimes and extremism against Asian Americans due to the pandemic. However, the Department of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not developed specific plans to address the racist attacks, despite having similar plans during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and after 9/11, the Center for Public Integrity reported last week.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) opened a statewide hotline in March for reporting COVID-19-related discrimination against Asians.
New York City’s Commission on Human Rights has held online trainings on how bystanders can safely intervene to defuse racist incidents. Before the pandemic shut down the city in mid-March, the commission hosted community forums in predominantly Asian neighborhoods like Manhattan’s Chinatown and Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. It has also provided additional information and resources in languages including Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Fujianese, Korean and Tagalog.
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