Anti-Asian Racism and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Caroline Maguire
March 26, 2021

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines hate crimes as criminal offenses “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.” While these are not a new occurrence, there seems to be a notable increase in the number of reported hate crimes against Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate, a group committed to reporting incidents of “hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying” against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, more than 2,800 hate incidents have been reported since the pandemic began. This rise in alleged racism likely stems from the tensions of the COVID-19 pandemic and word usages such as the “Kung flu” and the “Chinese virus.”

In New York City, hate crimes against the Asian community have led the New York Police Department to create the Asian Hate Crime Task Force, which focuses on preventing hate crimes in the subways, such as an 89-year-old woman whose shirt was set on fire. This is the first-ever NYPD task force dedicated to investigating crimes targeting a single race. 

On a national level, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to combat xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is expected to achieve this by “issuing guidance describing best practices for advancing cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the context of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 response.”

Several instances of violence against Asian senior citizens in the US have also gained attention on social media. Such Internet attention has led notable companies to speak out, and Nike, Adidas, Converse, Tommy Hilfiger, Benefit Cosmetics, Valentino, and U Beauty have posted statements on Instagram declaring their solidarity with the Asian American community.

The recurring instances of Anti-Asian racism and violence, is not new, but it is now being highlighted by the news and social media. Companies and communities have announced their support in standing with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and presumably Americans support actions for increased racial equality for all. 

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