Feb 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Recent attacks spark renewed focus on anti-Asian violence

Screengrab of a CBS News package with Daniel Dae Kim's tweet on the left and footage of a suspect on the right
Graphic: CBS News

A string of recent attacks on elderly Asian Americans has led to an uproar in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Why it matters: Violence and discrimination against Asian Americans appears to have risen dramatically since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving families nervous and afraid even in many of America’s most diverse cities.

Driving the news: Just within the past two weeks, a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed across the face in New York City; an 84-year-old Thai immigrant died after he was slammed into the ground in San Francisco; and a 91-year-old man was shoved to the ground in Oakland, California's Chinatown.

The coronavirus appears to have triggered a spike in anti-AAPI violence, and experts say former President Trump’s rhetoric — referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus” — only made matters worse.

  • Violence against Asian Americans increased "following the identification of the coronavirus in China," LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher told LAist.

By the numbers: Anti-AAPI hate incidents numbered around 200 in 2019, per FBI data. National data aren’t available yet for 2020, but there are clear signs that those numbers rose.

  • New York City, home to America’s largest AAPI population, reported just one incident of anti-AAPI violence in all of 2019, which jumped to 20 incidents in just the first half of 2020, Queens Chronicle reports.
  • Los Angeles reported 14 such incidents in the first half of last year, up from seven in the entire year before.

Stop AAPI Hate, a group formed shortly after the start of the pandemic, collected over 2,800 self-reported incidents of racism targeting Asian Americans across the U.S. between March and December of 2020.

  • 7.3% of the incidents involved people older than 60.
Data: Stop AAPI Hate; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Stop AAPI Hate; Chart: Axios Visuals

Between the lines: Assaults and homicides against people 60 and older have surged in recent years, and elderly Asian Americans are particularly vulnerable.

What we’re watching: Within days of taking office, President Biden signed an executive order directing an examination of anti-Asian discrimination.

  • When asked about the recent assaults at a White House briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would "support additional action on the local level or the federal level," but neither the White House nor the Justice Department offered specifics.

The bottom line: These "acts of cowardice ... show where we stand as a society," said Joon Bang, president and CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging.

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