The frequency of anti-Asian incidents — from taunts to outright assaults — reported in the United States so far this year seems poised to surpass last year despite months of political and social activism, according to a new report released Thursday.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that became the authority on gathering data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic, received 9,081 incident reports between March 19, 2020, and this June. Of those, 4,548 occurred last year, and 4,533 this year. Since the coronavirus was first reported in China, people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have been treated as scapegoats solely based on their race.
Lawmakers, activists and community groups have pushed back against the wave of attacks. There have been countless social media campaigns, bystander training sessions and public rallies. In May, President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, expediting Justice Department reviews of anti-Asian hate crimes and making available federal grants. Those supporters should not feel discouraged because the data hasn’t shifted much, Stop AAPI Hate leaders said.
“When you encourage hate, it’s not like a genie in a bottle where you can pull it out and push it back in whenever you want,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. “There’s too much perpetuating these belief systems to make them go away.”
Several factors contributed to the data, from an increase incidents to a greater desire to report, according to Kulkarni. As the economy opened up more in the past few months, it meant more public interactions and opportunities to attack, she said. Also, a bump in reporting typically occurs after a high-profile incident like the March 16 Atlanta-area spa shootings that left six Asian women dead.
“There, too, is where we saw some that were incidents that had taken place weeks or months before, but they just were either not aware of our reporting center or didn’t take the time to report,” Kulkarni said.
The reports aggregated by Stop AAPI Hate are from the victims themselves or someone reporting on their behalf, like an adult child. Overall, the report found verbal harassment and shunning — interactions that don’t qualify legally as hate crimes — make up the two largest shares of total incidents. Physical assaults made up the third. But their percentage of the incidents this year increased from last year — 16.6 percent compared to 10.8 percent.
More than 63 percent of the incidents were submitted by women. Roughly 31 percent took place on public streets, and 30 percent at businesses.