Since the beginning of the pandemic, anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise. The recent shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, in which six victims were Asian women, have only heightened national outrage over anti-Asian violence across the country.
Research released by reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate has revealed that almost 3,800 hate incidents were reported over a period of a year during the pandemic, which is a higher number than the 2,600 incidents reported over five months last year. Another report published by the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism found that in 2020, 16 cities nationwide reported that anti-Asian hate crimes rose by 149 percent.
“I believe this violence increased since the pandemic because of the stereotypes and ‘alternative’ names for COVID that have come out of the pandemic such as the ‘Kung flu’, ‘Chinese virus’ etc,” said Lily Zhang, senior and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Drake. “None of these names help the situation and instead direct anger towards the Asian race. It also doesn’t help that many people often lump all Asian Americans as Chinese either.”
Political Science Professor Mary McCarthy said that this is, unfortunately, a common response in times of turmoil.
“The fact that U.S. history and U.S. policy has created a mythology of Americans as white, has allowed certain immigrants to assimilate more easily than other immigrants,” McCarthy said. “We come time and time again, when the U.S. is facing challenges, that those who are not white are the ones who are scapegoated and we saw it after 9/11 and we see it now during COVID-19.”
Despite persistent violence against Asian-Americans, law enforcement officials in Atlanta were hesitant to label the recent shootings as hate crimes.
“It sure does sound like a hate crime, because he went to multiple spas where it is well-known predominantly Asian people work and he shot it up,” said freshman Priscilla Tuazon.
The former spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Captain Jay Baker, hinted that Long committed the shooting because of his sex addiction. However, officials said Long claimed race did not play a role in his decision to target those spas. Baker was removed from the case because of his statements and officials are still trying to find a clear motive.
“We saw a ramping up of violence against Asian Americans and Asian American women in particular,” McCarthy said. “We have some cultural propensities in the United States to hypersexualize Asian American women, and blame Asian Americans for political, social and economic challenges that American society faces.”
McCarthy said that even though it is debated whether or not labeling something a hate crime is effective she thinks it “does have a different effect than just calling it murder” and “it brings attention to these issues”.
“I honestly wonder if we did not have an increasing number of Asian Americans who are now particularly in the media, if we even would have heard about this as a potential hate crime.” McCarthy said. “We know that in Atlanta, the sheriff said that there is no evidence that this is a hate crime. And then there was pushback, it was pushed back by the Asian American community, pushback by those in the media, Asian Americans who are in the media saying, ‘wait, we have to report on this’. And so having that representation is what brought this to the attention of the U.S. public.”
Zhang said that she would like to see more conversations surrounding the issue of anti-Asian hate crimes.
“For a long time now, so many elderly Asian individuals have been hurt and attacked. I only found out about these situations through Asian accounts I followed on social media,” Zhang said. “I’m not sure many people even know of all the elderly Asians that have been targeted.”
CSSA is hosting an event from 5-7 p.m. on April 29 in Parents Hall featuring three speakers discussing recent incidents of Asian American hate crimes. There will be food for those attending in person, but the event will also be broadcast on Zoom. .
“This would be a great opportunity for students to address and learn more about the rise of anti-Asian violence,” Zhang said.