A series of violent crimes against Asians and Asian Americans has prompted activists and experts to warn that racist rhetoric about the coronavirus pandemic may be fueling a rise in hate incidents.
It's unclear whether the crimes were racially motivated, but advocates calling for more to be done to address violence against Asian Americans say racist crimes against the community are historically underreported for a variety of reasons.
Meanwhile, police departments across the country are warning residents of increased crime around Lunar New Year, in part because of the threat of robberies during the multi-day celebrations that begin Friday. Cash is a customary gift.
Violence against Asian Americans sharply increased in March as COVID-19 began spreading across the country, and some politicians, including former President Donald Trump, blamed China for the pandemic, said Russell Jeung, who created a tool that tracks hate incidents against Asian American Pacific Islander communities called the Stop AAPI Hate tracker.
"When President Trump began and insisted on using the term 'China virus,' we saw that hate speech really led to hate violence," said Jeung, chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University. "That sort of political rhetoric and that sort of anti-Asian climate has continued to this day."
Acts of racist violence lead to increased anxiety and fear in a population that already has higher rates of anxiety and depression related to COVID-19 than other racial groups, Jeung said.
Stop AAPI Hate, Jeung's website, which includes a self-reporting tool for harassment, discrimination and violent attacks, recorded 2,808 incidents of anti-Asian discrimination across the U.S. from its inception on March 19 to Dec. 31, 2020. Another organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, recorded more than 3,000 hate incidents in their self-reporting system since late April 2020 – by far the highest number in the tool's four-year history.