The article will be focusing on hate crimes against the Asian community that is on an all-time high due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The crimes are not just limited in the States; several cases have been reported in major countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, France, Germany and many more.
Globalization enabled immigrants to move to these parts of the world in the hopes of better opportunities and standard of living that has since helped the economy. The victims moved to the United States of America once called as the ‘land of opportunity’ to fulfil the ‘American Dream’ only to be looked as a minority and ‘statistically insignificant’. The love for Asian culture is only narrowed-down to anime, K-dramas, Ramen, street fashion but the empathy towards victims of the community has not only been inadequate but is also normalized. Portrayal by the media and cinema is one of the reasons why Asian culture appropriation is not seen as a ‘micro-aggression’, which includes mimicry of the accents, making the eyes, fantasizing Asians as a fetish.
The demographic for these crimes were mainly the elderly and women who were in a vulnerable position. Racial profiling seem to be the main reason for the attacks as anyone who had an ‘Asian’ look became a victim of hate. A 70 year old Latin grandmother was savagely assaulted on an LA bus right after she was yelled ethnic slurs used against Chinese people. She suffered a concussion, two black eyes, fractured nose, and a chunk of hair pulled out. In a different case, the assailants thought their Lyft driver, a Filipino man to be Chinese when they jacked his car at gunpoint. The vehicle being his only source of income, he fought back where he was miserably beaten wounding him in the hospital. The incidents occurred were not constantly of a violent nature; people were yelled racial slurs, threatened, told to “go back to their country,” spat on, urinated at, trespassed their properties.
Is the virus a medium for vengeance? It can be said that the pandemic might have triggered blaming the individuals of Asian descent by naming it the “Chinese virus.” The attackers had a sense of victimology for the crimes committed using the virus as an excuse or a chance. Moreover, the ideology behind the outbreaks are coming from a place of stereotype that are embedded in the society. Extremist values acted as a societal norm that paved the way towards racism and hate crimes. During the pandemic social media became the only way of getting news and updates. . In the midst of lockdown, hate speech was only limited to digital media platforms. Although everyone was suffering mentally from the pandemic and fighting their own battles, there was a sudden increase in anti- Asian sentiment involving hate speech, cyberbullying where “#ChineseVirus” was trending all over twitter. A research named ‘COVID-HATE’ talks about the spread of covid-19 and a rapid increase in racism, hate crime, and xenophobia. The research compares datasets regarding the hateful tweets against Asians and counter hate tweets. Over 30 million tweets were recorded in the span of three months that solely consisted of anti- Asian hate and counter hate tweets.
When the restrictions were lifted, the online hate speech took an ugly turn. When attacks started happening for walking down the street, jeopardizing their safety. The mass murder that took place at a spa in Atlanta led to the killing of 8 women out of which six were of Asian ethnicity. The act of violence was committed by a white male, in his early twenties, named Robert Aaron Long, whose criminal activity was described as a consequence of a “having a really bad day” according to the police. Upon further investigation, an anti-Asian Facebook post from last year was found. The businesses were one of the places he frequently visited; he targeted the spa as a means to get rid of his temptation. The accused also spoke about his struggles with “sexual addiction.” On speaking out about the mass shooting, Marilyn Strickland, a Korean-American Democrat from Washington was quoted as saying, “Racially motivated violence should be called out for exactly what it is — and we must stop making excuses or rebranding it as economic anxiety or sexual addiction.” She also stated, “I’m acutely aware of how it feels to be erased or ignored, and how the default position when violence is committed against people of colour or women is to defer from confronting the hate that is often the motivation.” Subsequently, no apparent reason has been ruled out for this heinous act but it is seen as a crime of hate towards another community in light of ongoing attacks across the country.
The suspects seem to be taking advantage of anti-police and lack of accountability. Not just Atlanta, New York has seen an abrupt increase in anti-Asian crimes where the Asian-Americans make up to 16 percent of the population. The NYC Police Department has recorded at least 35 reports of unprovoked violent attacks against Asians. The suspects targeted vulnerable aged people (above 60 years of age). In March, a 68 year old man was left bloodied in a Manhattan subway which is said to be a racially motivated attack. Another unprovoked attack took place in Manhattan where the suspect walks in the store and slashed the woman across her face. In addition to the current trend of vicious attacks, a 65-year-old woman of Filipino descent was on her way to Church where she was randomly knocked down, brutally beaten, and stomped on her head and face three times. The victim is currently seeking treatment for a fractured pelvis. A video featuring the attack shows three men standing in the lobby of Washington Heights and later on, the doorman is caught shutting the door on her as a response to the assault. The accused named Brandon Elliot, 38, is being charged with two counts of assault both for hate crimes. Since the attacks are taking place in a fast-paced, casual manner, the Asian-American population are crippled with anxiety, fear and anger. The affected residents of New York City are feeling abandoned by the Police Department. In April, a man in Brooklyn burned a 39-year-old woman who was taking the trash out in front of her home with a corrosive chemical that left her face, hands and neck scorched. A similar case happened in Brooklyn where two men lit an 89 year old woman on fire near her home. The police did not classify both the incidents as a hate crime. As a result, the public are scared of leaving their homes and living in a state of fear.
California also saw major spike in the events corresponding to the recent racial attacks from corner to corner to the United States. The xenophobic attacks led to the death of a 84 year old Thai man who was shoved into the ground in California’s Chinatown. A survey stated three in 10 Asians have been subjected to racial slurs and racist jokes since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. A few months ago, an Asian woman in her 50s was mugged at gunpoint at san Francisco’s sunset district. The surveillance footage shows two people, one of which shoves her to the ground while the other performed the robbery. In another case, a 19 year old Jessica Dimalanta was shot in the eye as part of the ongoing attacks. Three people between the ages of 70 and 80 were punched in the face. Steven Jenkins, a white 39 year old, made two of the attacks in which one of the victim fought back after she was attacked unprovoked. Hate speech was just verbal, three of the salons based in California received letters containing hateful messages. In a similar occurrence, a family in San Francisco received a letter after the family buried one of the many victims of the ongoing attacks.
It is not just the people walking down the street that are being attacked. People working as delivery drivers, cab drivers, healthcare workers are also facing the danger of being assaulted. The frontline workers have experienced racism and hate speech while being at service during the pandemic. The patients did not only disregard the doctors and nurses of Asian ethnicities, they were also spat on, coughed at and were told to ‘go back to where they came from.’ In a different instance, when a cab driver (Nepalese) asked the passengers to simply wear a mask, the passengers threatened to file a complaint against the driver. The former was physically violated and coughed on. Two teenage girls (13 and 15) who were carrying a Taser while attempting a car robbery mauled an Uber Eats driver to death. The 66 year old Pakistani immigrant was murdered after he was trying to secure the car calling for help when the car sped off leading to a crash and got flipped leaving him hanging on the other side. The girls are facing felony charges. The event led to an outrage that were later seen in the rallies against Asian hate crimes.
The outburst in the US has been under limelight but there is also a necessary need to shine a light on the waves of crime that have been taking place in the UK as well. Racism in the UK has shown a 300 percent spike towards East and Southeast Asians so much so that a 23-year-old Singaporean student required facial surgery after being severely battered. A picture of a bruised Chinese university professor was circulated on the Internet who was attacked in Southampton. Since the virus outbreak originated from China, Chinese takeaway restaurants were vandalised and boycotted. The member of the opposition party described Chinese people as “evil bastards.” The data obtained through freedom of information requests to several UK police forces disclosed at least 267 anti-Asian hate crimes between January and March 2020 compared to previous years. An anti-racism group that goes by the name of ‘Stop Hate UK’ received a rise in reports of racism, discrimination, verbal abuse from Chinese people living in the UK. The country has a long history of deep-rooted racism that the pandemic has exposed where individuals have been asked inappropriate questions and have been a victim of trolling and micro-aggression.
The civil society group called Lunaria in Italy has collected over 50 reports and media accounts showing signs of assaults, verbal harassment, bullying and discrimination against the Asians. Research by political scientist showed there was an increase in hate crimes towards the community, in areas where there was higher unemployment in Italy. The study further showed poor economic conditions can act as a situational trigger. The racism against Asians is not just in America, there has been a surge in hate encountered by Asian entities in Germany. An Indonesian student in Berlin became a victim of physical violence and hate speech. One more student from the same nationality shared her experience with racism when someone threw a firecracker in means to hurt her as she was walking back home. A well-known filmmaker working in Germany who goes by the name ‘Pop Fan’ recalled being yelled at “corona” in the subway. Trying to report the incident, the police took no action.
The hate against Asians go way back when the America was at war with Vietnam and Japan. During the 80s and 90s, the Vietnamese refugees were discriminated on a routinely basis. A Chinese man was beaten to death in Detroit. The accused later confessed that he mistook the victim as Japanese. The Asian-Americans are scapegoated regularly was the case when a white supremacist named Patrick Purdy gunned down five Southeast Asian children and injured many more. After the Chinese massacre is an example of recapitulation of American history in regards to the racial attacks happening right now. The massacre that took place in Los Angeles’ Chinatown resulted in the killing of 19 people one of which was a 15 year old boy was aligned with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Although, we have an easy access to media channels and social media platforms, there has not been a deserving recognition for ‘STOP ASIAN HATE.’ There seems to be a participation bias as compared to the ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ movement. Even though, people came out in support and rallied along with the crowds, there was an obvious lack of participation online. Apparently, the BLM movement was perceived as a trend, hence it received massive attention. The Asian community stood with the black community in support but it does not seem to be the other way around. The reason why ‘STOP ASIAN HATE’ cannot be documented as a possible movement is a reflection of people’s racial mind-set, apathy, favouritism for political trends. The frustration from the pandemic heightened the racial harassment against the Asian individuals using negative stereotype as a socially acceptable concept. The suffering individuals are having a hard time processing the trauma, which can influence their mental health causing long-term complexities. It seems that the virus triggered a subconscious animosity evolved from distress built up through unproductivity, unemployment, poverty and a lack of respect in the society. According to the Stop AAPI Hate Coalition, there have been 3,795 anti-Asian instances (March 202- February 2021). It is imperative to show support for the community by spreading awareness, educating ourselves, engaging in politically demanding topics.
The scarring is not only external but also internal because of the systematic racism. It can be seen that the trend was to attack people who seemed to weak and could not have defended themselves when jumped. According to the data set, verbal harassment had the highest percentage in the form of victimisation. New York and California became the two states that showed signs of threat towards Asian lives. Talking about the history, the saying, ‘history repeats itself’ can be hold true. The immigrants had no voice because they were busy making a living but now Asians across the globe are choosing to speak up and stand up for themselves. It does not matter what nationality we are born into, these attacks have shocked everyone, every country that comes under the collective term that is ‘Asian’. The pain endured is not just for the victims and their families, it is felt by the entire community. The Asian public is not responsible for the pandemic neither are they trying to spread it. Is it the subconscious hatred towards Asians that made the virus lethal or is it the people using the virus as a chance to eradicate the Asian race? Racial profiling has been the core element behind the attacks. People frustrated from the lockdown and the pandemic took out their aggression and hurt innocent lives.
Is it the virus or is it bigotry?
We feel deeply for the victims’ families and pray for their well-being. We stand in solidarity with the Asian community and will do our best to show our support regarding the ongoing attacks.
Author: Arzoo Gaur