On Tuesday, March 16 — just hours before the fatal Atlanta spa shootings that killed eight people in Georgia — the Stop AAPI Hate coalition released a report disclosing the statistics behind anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States since March 2020. According to the report, there have been nearly 3,800 documented cases of anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide over the last year, and a majority of the victims were women. This is only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur annually, with cases of xenophobia and bigotry mounting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the numbers remain a formidable reflection of recent hate crimes.
"Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable."
All but one of the eight victims of Tuesday's massage-parlor shootings were women, and six were Asian, which is a chilling statistic that has only served to "exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure," according to Stop AAPI Hate. "The reported shootings of multiple Asian American women today in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy — for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the Asian American community, which has been reeling from high levels of racist attacks over the course of the past year," the group said in a statement on March 17. "Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now. Anything else is unacceptable."
A closer look at the report reveals that verbal harassment and shunning make up the two largest portions of total incidents reported, collectively totaling at just over 80 percent. Physical assault comprises 11.1 percent of reported incidents, while civil-rights violations — including workplace discrimination, refusal of service, and so on — make up 8.5 percent, and online harassment follows closely behind at 6.8 percent. More than one-third (35.4 percent) of these instances of discrimination and harassment happen while a member of the Asian community is at a business, such as a store, salon, or workplace, while one-quarter of incidents take place in public streets or on the sidewalk.
Across all 50 states, women are 2.3 times more likely than men to report these crimes. Chinese individuals are the largest ethnic group affected, constituting more than 42 percent of reported incidents. Together, people of Korean, Vietnamese, and Filipino descent make up an additional 31 percent of reported experiences of hate. Just days before the March 16 attacks, Georgia state Senator Michelle Au gave a chilling account detailing the reality of hateful encounters APIA individuals have faced on a daily basis during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Georgia should not consider itself immune from this epidemic," Dr. Au said. "And to be clear, the epidemic I'm referring to is not COVID-19, but racism towards Asian Americans. . . . The thing is, racism against AAPI Americans is not new. Otherization or exoticization of AAPI Americans is not new. Violence against AAPI Americans is not new."
While speaking with Stop AAPI Hate for the purposes of the statistical report, a student from College Park, MD, said, "One of my professors was talking about the public health response to COVID-19 and explicitly called it the 'China Virus' and that 'we've gotta be very careful about that country and what they'd do to us.'" Another added, "Two white, middle-aged men, who have been my neighbors for over fifteen years, approached me threateningly on the street, pulled down the corners of their eyes and said, 'Go back to Wuhan, b*tch and take the virus with you!' When I called them vile, they then called me a 'Thai wh*re' and threatened to beat up my husband."
Six days after taking office, President Joe Biden released a memorandum aimed at combatting racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US. The memo reads: "The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin. Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons. These actions defied the best practices and guidelines of public health officials and have caused significant harm to AAPI families and communities that must be addressed."
In the wake of such prevalent violence toward the APIA community, mandates can only do so much. It is the responsibility of community members to speak up in the face of blatant hatred and take action by donating, supporting local businesses, and being actively mindful of anti-Asian rhetoric. Find out more about ways to combat racism against Asian Americans here.