By BHIT YOON
On March 16, 2021, eight people were killed in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia. Six of the victims were Asian women. A survivor of the shooting stated in an interview that they heard the shooter say, “I’m going to kill all Asians.”
Just two days prior in Midland, Texas, an Asian family was attacked by a man with a knife. The father was struck in the face, cutting him, and the six-year-old child had their face slashed open, splitting their right ear and wrapping around the back of their skull. When the assailant was subdued, he yelled, “Get out of America” at the Asian family.
A month later, an Asian person was threatened outside of a neighborhood store in northwest Washington. The assailant, armed with a knife, threatened to kill the victim, stating, “I will kill you. You have coronavirus. Go back to China.”
Anti-Asian hate incidents are on the rise. In June 2020, Former POTUS Donald Trump referred to the coronavirus as the “Kung Flu”; a year later, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes rose by 224%, a new record. Asian Americans were not the only minority that saw an elevated number of hate crimes. 2021 saw a 59% increase in the number of anti-Jewish hate crimes, 51% anti-gay, 41% anti-Latino, and 16% anti-Black.
When authority figures single out minority groups it can be seen as an invitation for racists to attack them. In a special presentation hosted by Ethnic Media Services, a panel of specialists shared anti-Asian hate crime data and thoughts on how to combat hate. “When we hear gays being described as groomers or immigrants as dirty, it’s a printed circuit of stereotypes to find certain people as legitimate targets of aggression,” says Brian Levin, founding director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Act Report released in October 2021 revealed that 8,263 hate crimes were reported in 2020, which was the highest number since 2008. However, the National Crime Victimization Survey reported that the number of hate crimes was closer to 250,000.
According to Becky L. Monroe, deputy director of strategic initiatives and external affairs at the California Civil Rights Department, “The FBI is mandated to collect hate crime data, but state and local law enforcement agencies are not mandated to provide it. 85% of the law enforcement agencies that do report to the FBI report that zero hate crimes occur in their jurisdiction. That includes cities with populations of over 100,000 people. It’s simply not credible that no hate crimes occurred there.”
High-profile hate crime cases, such as the Atlanta spa shootings, have also called into question the accuracy of hate crime reporting and investigation. Captain Jay Baker, spokesman of the Cherokee County (Georgia) Sheriff’s Office at the time, said that the murderer of the eight victims was having a “really bad day.”
Captain Baker reportedly had a Facebook post of him wearing a shirt that read, “COVID-19, imported virus from Chy-na.”
“In cities like Huntsville, ProPublica found supervisors telling law enforcement not to prosecute hate crimes. We have departments that hire bigots and extremists. Look at how many hate crimes were prosecuted by the Riverside County sheriff, who was also a former Oath Keeper,” says Levin. In August of 2022, 17 Oath Keepers members were indicted in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Counties and states also have varying methods of documenting and reporting hate crimes. In Los Angeles, hate crimes are documented and reported according to each victim. Other cities report them by event. Some police organizations don’t classify hate crimes at all, instead leaving it to prosecutors. The FBI’s hate crime data does not utilize the data of prosecutors.
“Here in California, a bill that would make hate crime procedures and policies mandatory died. We hope to repeat that again with a bill the following year, but we need a variety of messages,” says Levin.
Comparing the FBI’s Universal Crime Report and the National Crime Victimization Survey, there is a significant discrepancy in the number of reported hate crimes. “The data is not accurate,” says Monroe. These discrepancies don’t even take into account the number of hate incidents.
Hate incidents are acts of hate that may not violate the law but may still cause significant harm to a community. From March 19, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2021, a total of 10,905 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported to Stop AAPI Hate. Of those 10,905 incidents, 63% of them were instances of verbal harassment, and 61.8% of all reports were made by AAPI women. Youth report 9.9% of incidents, and those over 60 reported only 7% of incidents.
It’s important to understand what hate incidents look like. In a presentation by Manjusha P. Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, some victims of hate incidents were discriminated against by their bosses, co-workers, or customers; told to go back to their country; or even received threats of physical violence. Others were physically assaulted in stores and inundated with verbal abuse. Elderly parents walking with infants had racial slurs shouted at them by driving passersby. In one reported case a middle-school child was punched in the head over 20 times after being accused of having COVID-19 and told to “go back to China.”
Hate crime reporting by law enforcement agencies may only represent a small fraction of hate crimes in the United States. Sources of local news have been an essential resource for coverage of hate crimes and incidents in the community. “[Reporters] are reaching the very communities that we are trying to reach when we are talking about combating hate,” says Monroe.
Please help The Rafu Shimpo cover more incidents of hate in our community. If you have a hate incident you would like to report or a story of generational trauma you would like to share, please contact our digital editor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library