Combating the Rise of Hate Crimes Against Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the Times of COVID-19 Pandemic

Nina Z

2021 marks the second consecutive year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every country has dealt with multiple social and economic issues, with many of them still facing rampant outbreaks and emergency lockdowns. For most people, the past two years have been full of anxiety and stress, but for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), COVID-19 has caused many more problems that directly affect their everyday lives. Due to false and biased information relating to COVID-19's origins, AAPIs have faced verbal and physical harassment, property damage, and general discriminatory behavior. This article will use incidents from the United States of America to explore the hate against AAPIs, as well as the ways to combat it. 

In response to the rapidly growing bigotry against AAPIs, the Asain American Studies Department of San Francisco State University launched the Stop AAPI Hate coalition, a group dedicated to the collection and tracking of AAPI discrimination and major incidents during the pandemic. Between March 19th and December 31st of 2020, the AAPI coalition released data showing that they received more than 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states, with 126 incidents involving Asian Americans older than 60.

These hate crimes against AAPI communities have devastating effects. Unlike other types of crimes, hate crimes impact more people than the victims themselves, like their families and others in the same community. These acts make communities suspicious and fearful of one another and reluctant to engage in civic life, disturbing their normal lifestyles and preventing them from working with local law enforcement to investigate and report the crime. It is important for national, state, and local leaders to be firm in their stance that hate will not be tolerated, especially regarding these recent surges in attacks on the AAPI community. 

Here are several ways the "Stop AAPI Hate" coalition has suggested action against hate crimes against AAPIs:

  • Report incidents and crimes. This will allow communities and law enforcement to fully understand the scope of the problem and put resources toward preventing and addressing these attacks. While not all these incidents will meet the legal definition of criminally prosecutable hate crimes, it is still important to acknowledge and track hate incidents because these still cause significant community harm. 
  • Public messaging in the aftermath of a potential hate crime is crucial to build and maintain community trust in law enforcement. 

Other than the listed approaches, there are other ways individuals can draw attention to the discrimination against AAPI's. For example, Ms. Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, a multidisciplinary American artist, created artworks to display around New York City to promote the issue. These works illustrate AAPI people with varying declarative captions emphasizing their lack of involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic. The picture below is an example of one such work entitled "We Are More," showcasing members of the AAPI community and captions stating their right to exist within the community in an empowering manner.

(A piece from Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya's "I Still Believe in our City" art exhibition featured around New York City to promote the issue of hate crimes against AAPI communities, Columbia College) 

Another step forward was enacting the "COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act" by the United States Congress on May 20th, 2021. This act created a designated coordinator at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the review of reported hate crimes and hate incidents for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. The presence of this coordinator will serve to prevent misinformation-- the problem that first exacerbated the hate against AAPIs. 
 These examples and more are all ways in which the world is moving past anti-Asian xenophobia and looking forward to a future of greater awareness, knowledge, tolerance, and peace.