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The Rise In Anti-Asian Attacks During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Tracy Wong wearing a face mask and holding a sign takes part in a rally to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, near Chinatown in Los Angeles, California.
Tracy Wong wearing a face mask and holding a sign takes part in a rally to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, near Chinatown in Los Angeles, California.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, racism and harassment towards Asian Americans has increased. Stop AAPI Hate, an organization tracking reports of violence towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, has reported over 2,800 incidents of verbal and physical abuse since March 2020

These incidents range from violent attacks and verbal abuse to the vandalization of Asian-owned businesses. And many are attributing this to xenophobic rhetoric that associates the pandemic with Asian Americans, including former President Trump’s habit of blaming the virus on China. 

From The Washington Post’s coverage of these attacks:

Several viral videos of attacks on Asian pedestrians this month have heightened concerns: a Filipino man slashed with a box cutter on a New York City train; a 52-year-old woman shoved to the ground in Flushing, Queens; an Asian woman punched in the face on a subway platform and a Los Angeles man beaten with his own cane at a bus stop.

It’s unclear if the violence in each of those viral videos was racially motivated, but the incidents have left Asian Americans feeling not only under attack but also largely alone in addressing neighborhood crime, with many of the assailants remaining elusive. While some have joined neighborhood patrols, others are arming themselves for protection. And still others have pushed for law enforcement to create task forces and liaisons to better address neighborhood concerns.

“People are fed up about not being heard, not being seen and waiting for help,” said Will Lex Ham, an activist who has participated in the San Francisco Chinatown street patrols and organized rallies in New York. “We’re not getting the allyship we need, the resources we need. We have to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps.”

But anti-Asian racism isn’t new and this uptick of violence is forcing us to examine the centuries of hate that has led to this moment. What’s behind the rise in anti-Asian attacks? And what might our past tell us about the fight to be seen and to feel safe?

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.