The Stop AAPI Hate Movement has been gaining traction in the fight against racism in the United States. Racism is a long-standing issue in the United States, which people in power are making a move to resolve under the leadership of US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. With the demographics of America being as diverse as ever, more authorities are actively making a move to slowly eradicate the prevalence of racism. The issue of racism is a popular topic used when writing essays that discuss controversial issues. This essay will focus on the issue of AAPI hate currently circulating various social media and news media platforms.
What is a hate crime?
The number of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate crimes have been drastically rising since the COVID-19 pandemic started. This is primarily due to the known fact that the COVID-19 virus originated from China, a country which most Americans view as the entirety of the Asian continent. This thinking is further fueled by former US President Donald Trump when he dubbed the Coronavirus “China Virus” and “kung flu” in public statements.
But what is a hate crime? It is a form of an offensive act that has been done mainly because of a biased perspective or motive. A hate crime is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity” (2020). The FBI puts emphasis on the act of committing a crime because hate in itself cannot be considered a crime due to civil liberties like freedom of speech.
This is exactly why it is hard for police to identify hate crimes directed towards AAPI people. If an old Asian lady gets attacked out of the blue, but it happens that she owns a store or any other small-business, the motive of the crime gets blurred. Unlike other groups, AAPI people do not have an identifiable symbol that can help with their case. Hate crime, unfortunately, is a difficult thing to prove in court. Even if there is evidence that shows the act of crime, there are circumstances where it could not be used to make a strong argument in court.
From March to May 2020 alone, there has been a nine-fold surge or more than 1,800 hate crime incidents recorded to have occurred against people of Asian descent in the United States. According to the Mandates of the Special Rapporteur, the recorded hate crime incidents include physical assaults, vandalism, verbal harassment, denial of access to services and public spaces (2020). Women are the ones who have experienced more harassment than men.
Why are there Asian hate crimes?
The number of Asian hate crimes have risen in the past year. Although it is not a new experience for the AAPI community to experience hate crimes and other forms of discrimination, the surge of hate crime cases – reported or not – is quite concerning. The reason behind the hate crime surge is mainly caused by the COVID-19 virus as other races are associating it with the Chinese or Asian people as a whole.
Reports about abuse or attacks that target Asian people in the past few months range from people getting spat on, their faces slashed, beaten up, or murdered in cold blood. Most hate crimes go unrecorded or unresolved due to lack of reports or evidence. Although Asian Americans are technically part of the model minority, it does not mean that they do not experience discrimination on a day to day basis.
People who look Chinese, even if they have never set foot in China, get attacked just because of their race. People who are identified or labelled as Chinese or Asian then have to face an opponent that is as dangerous as the COVID-19 virus – racists. It does not even matter if a person is from the Philippines, Myanmar, or Brunei –people with Asian ancestry are lumped together and discriminated. Some Asian people have to be on guard even in their houses as they may be attacked at any time. These collective Asian hate crime incidents paints a very clear picture of the manifestation of racism in the modern times.
According to the data gathered by the Stop AAPI Hate advocacy group, as of mid-March 2021, there has been a total of almost 3.8 thousand reported Asian hate incidents. Almost half of those who have been attacked in some form have Chinese blood. Hate crimes usually happen in workplaces or in public. There are little to no known incidents where perpetrators attacked children, but 26-35 year olds are mostly the ones who are targeted. The most common form of hate crime being committed is verbal abuse (Balash, 2021).
The FBI still has no updated figures regarding this matter available on their website. However, they have shared a few estimates like how the number of Asian hate crimes in a particular country in California rose up to 1200% in the past year alone. And then, on other reports, the amount of Asian Americans reporting Asian hate crime incidents rose 6% more than the recorded number from the past year. These incidents include stalking, sexual harassment, online harassment, and physical threats.
Who are Asian hate crime perpetrators?
When Asian hate crime is discussed, people automatically veer to thinking that a white man is responsible for the suffering of the oppressed person. However, the analyzed data from the New York Police Department by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says otherwise. According to their records, eleven out of twenty of the Asian hate crime perpetrators were African Americans and only two of them were white.
This finding may be shocking for some, because white people are also stereotyped as being aggressive and unreasonable. This data means that on some degree, white people are also subjected to some form of stereotypical injustice like the Asians. What’s more surprising is that more than half of the arrested people in connection to Asian hate crimes make up of a racial group who is known to have experienced racial discrimination for generations.
The findings seem unbelievable for some, but one shall bear in mind that racism takes on many different forms. It is not limited to one particular group of people alone. Even those that may seem innocent or would share the suffering that another group feels may be found guilty of racially motivated hate crime. Although, this should not be a reason to believe that all African Americans are perpetrators of Asian hate crimes. When in fact, some African Americans are part of those who decided to rise up against the hate Asian people are receiving.
Why increased police visibility is not the answer
Under the legislation in some states in America, certain offenses can be considered a hate crime if the right evidence is to be presented. This may be a social media post and recorded verbal or physical abuse. This can potentially increase the offender’s prison sentence. However, having evidence to present still cannot guarantee for the victim to win the case.
On the other hand, reporting a hate crime is not an option for some AAPI families. This is because they are inclined to stay silent, are restricted by language barriers, or simply worried that their immigration status will be questioned by authorities. More often than not, victims choose to stay silent in fear that their perpetrators will come back to torment them once more. They would rather choose to avoid unnecessary trouble than report a hate crime.
Because hate crimes are hard to identify and not that many people are inclined on reporting a hate crime incident, some authorities and communities have come to think that increasing the rounds done by the police force or having them guard communities is necessary to reduce the number of Asian hate crimes being committed.
However, an attorney has pointed out that this may not be the best course of action to take as police in the United States are also known to accuse people who are disproportionately privileged which mostly make up of people of color. Therefore, people of color are put to a greater disadvantage if police visibility is increased. There is a possibility that the Asian hate crimes will not go down, but the number of wrongly accused people of color will go up.
Furthermore, the number of people that are actually arrested for committing hate crimes is incredibly far from the number of reported hate crimes submitted to the Stop AAPI Hate advocacy group. Authorities have admitted that the data they have on hand is both limited and imperfect and that a pending bill is expected to be passed mid-2021 that aims to standardize the system in gathering hate crime incident reports.
Regarding encouraging the AAPI community and other members of the community to report Asian hate crimes, some authorities disagree with the idea as they think this may cause a possible rift between the communities of people of color. They say that pointing the finger towards another group will trigger more racial tension and disparities.
Racism is one of the things that have existed since time immemorial. This is exactly why many American and European literature depicts racism as it was during the author’s time. It is a social problem that is very hard to get rid of as it deals with a person’s perspective – or prejudice – on people of people coming from a different race. But, this is a modern era people are living in. More and more people are pitching in to make a change and protect everyone from hate crimes.
Hate crimes are not unique to the Asian community. But because Asian people are the ones mostly targeted at the moment, everyone should do their best to help protect them and win their cause. No one deserves to be spat on the face on a random train ride, to be attacked and killed for reasons unknown, and slashed on a face just because of one’s race. Asians are people just like everyone else, the virus is not unique to them, and they shall not be intensely discriminated just for that.
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Balash, E. (2021, March 30). Anti-Asian Hate Incidents in America. Tableau Public. https://public.tableau.com/en-us/gallery/anti-asian-hate-incidents-america?tab=viz-of-the-day&type=viz-of-the-day
Hate Crimes. (2020, March 31). Federal Bureau of Investigation. https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes
Hong, N., & Bromwich, J. E. (2021, March 31). Asian-Americans Are Being Attacked. Why Are Hate Crime Charges So Rare? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/18/nyregion/asian-hate-crimes.html
Mandates of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls. (2020, August). https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25476
Yam, K. (2021, March 19). There were 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women, in past year. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/there-were-3-800-anti-asian-racist-incidents-mostly-against-n1261257