New data shows continued surge in anti-Asian hate crime reports in some major cities

A new report on hate crimes against Asian Americans has found that 2021 is sustaining the troubling trends of 2020 in some major cities. Across 15 of America’s largest cities and counties, there was a 169% increase in anti-Asian hate crime reports to police in the first quarter of 2021 compared to same time period in 2020, with the number of reported incidents rising from 32 to 86, according to an analysis of police data by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

New York saw the greatest increase, 223%, with the number of incidents reported to police rising from 13 to 42. San Francisco saw a 140% increase from 5 to 12, and reported incidents in Los Angeles and Boston increased 80% and 60%, respectively. 

Nine of the areas did not report individual percentage changes, because the number of reported incidents in 2020 or 2021 was zero. In Miami and Phoenix, the numbers did not change between 2020 and 2021. 

Brutal attacks on Asian Americans across the country have drawn new awareness to the issue in the past year. Earlier this year, actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu offered a $25,000 reward for information after a series of violent attacks on elderly Asian Americans were caught on video in Oakland. Just last week, a 61-year-old man was attacked from behind and kicked in the head multiple times in New York, leaving him in a coma, his family said. 

Anne A. Cheng, a race scholar and professor at Princeton University, told CBS News that she hoped the increased national attention given to the issue would have reduced the number of attacks.

Instead, Cheng has seen the effects of the increase in anti-Asian hate in her own community. Two of her friends, both Asian-American scholars, experienced anti-Asian hate incidents.  One was followed by a man for a block who was pretending to use his fingers to mimic a gun, yelling “pew, pew” as he walked behind her, she said, and the other was shoved on the street and called a racist slur. 

“I’ve been hearing stories for months, but now I actually know these people. These are not second hand stories anymore,” Cheng said. 

The report comes after a year that saw a major spike in reports of anti-Asian hate. A March report from the university found a nearly 150% surge in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, which has been attributed in part to rhetoric that links Asian Americans to the coronavirus pandemic. The first spikes last year rose alongside COVID-19 cases in March and April. 

According to STOP AAPI Hate’s most recent report, there were 3,795 reports of hate incidents between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021. 

This month, the Senate overwhelmingly passed anti-Asian hate crimes legislation that works to expand the federal government’s ability to address the rise in hate crimes. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, passed 94-1.  President Biden has expressed his support for the bill, which will now go to the House. 

“Attitudes are set top down,” Cheng said of the bill. ” I’m cautiously optimistic about it because I feel like legislation is awfully slow, and I don’t know what it’s actually going to look like once it’s approved. I don’t know at this point if it is going to be a band aid over a large wound. But I am grateful for it, that it’s happening.” 

The bill would create a point person at the Justice Department who would review hate crime incidents and facilitate the process for reporting, as well as provide grant money for public education campaigns. 

According to the study, big cities with higher concentrations of Asian American residents, more hate crimes units, and greater access to victim outreach were more likely to have higher reports of hate crime incidents.

California State University Professor Brian Levin, who co-authored the hate crime study, told CBS News that while some of the rise in reported incidents can be attributed to greater cultural awareness of the issue, the rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes is still a “phenomenon in the Asian American community that is of historic significance.” 

The study found hate crimes against Asian-Americans have increased in times of diplomatic tension between the United States and China before, although at lower levels. The first spike was in 2014, after the release of a scathing United Nations report describing  “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in North Korea. The second occurred as the tariff war between the United States and China heated up in July 2018. 

Cheng said she hopes the attention to the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans will encourage more members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to come forward. 

“I hope it’s a message to Asian Americans. One, that you’re not alone. And two, you should speak up.”

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