In analyzing preliminary data obtained from over a dozen of the nation’s largest police jurisdictions, researchers identified 95 anti-Asian hate crimes reported to authorities in the first quarter of 2021, compared with 36 reported incidents in the first quarter of 2020.
The area with the largest increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes was New York City, which saw a 223% spike in early 2021 as reported incidents rose from 13 to 42 compared to the same time last year; followed by San Francisco with a 140% increase as reported incidents rose from 5 to 12, and Los Angeles with an 80% increase associated with a rise from 5 to 9 reported anti-Asian hate crimes.
As CNN has previously reported, hate crimes against Asians often go underreported due to the lack of mandatory national reporting requirements by police agencies, but also because of other factors that could deter victims from calling the police, such as: longstanding distrust of law enforcement, language barriers, and immigration status.
“This year’s first quarter increase follows a historic surge in Anti-Asian hate crime that started last year,” the studied noted. “Last year’s first spike occurred in March and April amidst a rise in COVID cases, a World Health Organization pandemic declaration and an increase in political and online stigmatizing of Asians.”
According to Professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSUSB, researchers noticed spikes in anti-Asian hate crimes that they believe were associated with a “political invective increase,” as well as the amplification of stigmatizing language by former president Donald Trump.
During 2020, Trump referred to the coronavirus using the racist moniker “kung flu.” Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s use of the racist term.
Asked about the reason for the early 2021 spike, Levin described the “highly charged debates about masks, vaccine and the economy” as being at play, and said “the stereotypes about COVID that bloomed last year have had another fertile season” as anti-Asian stereotypes were resurfaced by those who promulgated them in 2020.
“Even though President Biden is providing leadership from the bully pulpit,” Levin told CNN, “there are still many that have already embraced these conspiracies and derisive stereotypes about Asians.”
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, CNN has reported on numerous incidents of violence towards Asians.
In a letter obtained by CNN last year from FBI Director Christopher Wray to law enforcement leaders around the country, Wray wrote that his agency remained “concerned about the potential for hate crimes by individuals and groups targeting minority populations in the United States who they believe are responsible for the spread of the virus.”
In addition to a greater focus by law enforcement on anti-Asian crimes, Congress is also working to denounce and prevent attacks against Asian communities. The Senate overwhelmingly passed anti-discrimination legislation last month, which will now be taken up by the House of Representatives.
CNN’s Priya Krishnakumar contributed to this report.
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