Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes in the U.S.

Maya Weaver '21, Staff Writer

The first Asian immigrants to the United States came to its shores as early as the late 1500s, overwhelmed by the smell of the salty brine of the waters they voyaged across and the tantalizing pursuit of a secure and prosperous life. In the centuries since then, the US has become home to several Asian ethnic groups that comprise millions of valuable and diverse contributors to the cultural, political, and economic landscape of the United States. To date, the Asian population is the fastest-growing racial group in the United States. Yet, despite the long-lasting presence of Asian Americans and the extensivity of their contributions to the country, recent events show that people of Asian descent remain unwelcomed and unfairly otherized by members of the larger society.

 This past year has lain witness to an unrelenting surge of anti-Asian hate crime that included numerous stabbings, beatings, incidents of verbal abuse, or fatal attacks largely motivated by unfair assertions that those of specifically East and Southeast Asian ethnicity are carriers of the coronavirus or the direct cause of it. Although sentiment, policy, and acts of violence against the Asian diaspora in the US have repeatedly marred the nation’s history, the events of 2020 and 2021 mark an especially significant toll on the safety and well-being of Asian Americans. Despite the horrific nature of these recent hate crimes, for the most part, they have failed to come to the attention of the public consciousness and received limited reporting in mainstream media, perpetuating patterns of disregard of the voices and stories of Asian Americans in politics, media, or history curricula. However, a horrific shooting in three Atlanta spas that led to the deaths of six Asian women in March of 2021 precipitated the Stop Asian Hate movement shortly after, engaging the nation in a discourse on the vulnerabilities of Asians in the US at greater lengths than previously. The movement has garnered the attention of notable public figures and celebrities and recently motivated the successful passing of a bill by the Senate that promotes legislation strengthening federal efforts to address hate crime directed against Asian Americans.  

As the movement progresses, many Asian Americans, typically divided by ethnicity, class, and age, are coming together to share their stories and insights through news publications, social media, rallies, or discourse with public figures. These expressions of frustration, collectively, are a force with which to empower Asians in the US and tackle harmful perceptions that provide fuel for the dismissal, disrespect, and hatred of Asians that is acutely disturbing the nation in the present moment. 

Ultimately, 2020 and 2021 have been years of both triumphant progress and tremendous fear for Asian American communities. Events like the election of Kamala Harris, a vice president of South Asian descent, the growth of a movement seeking to empower Asian Americans, or increased representation of Asian American stories in the media demonstrates that the diversity and achievements of the Asian diaspora in the US greatly lends itself to the value of the country. Yet, as Asian community members continue to be attacked and degraded daily, clearly, work needs to be done to continue to advance the safety of a community whose rich histories and practices deserve recognition over degradation.