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Yes, there has been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hate crimes against Asians rose by 145% in 2020 even though overall reported hate crimes dropped by 6%.
Credit: AP Photo/Ben Gray
People hold signs while participating in a "stop Asian hate" rally outside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, March 20, 2021.

On May 20, President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law to address the increase in hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. The new legislation also comes after a mass shooting that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, in Atlanta, Georgia, in March 2021.

Many are asking if hate crimes and discrimination towards Asians have increased in the United States and if they are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE SOURCES

THE QUESTION

Has there been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. in the past year?

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, there has been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year. There has also been a spike in anti-Asian hate incidents, or cases that are unlikely to lead to criminal conviction or be categorized as an official hate crime.

WHAT WE FOUND

In March of 2021, the Center for Study of Hate & Extremism (CSUSB) published a report documenting changes in hate crime patterns for all of 2020 in 16 American cities. In those 16 cities, which include most of the largest cities in the United States, hate crimes against Asians rose by 145% in 2020 even though overall reported hate crimes dropped by 6%. Of the 16 cities in the report, there were 122 reported cases of hate crimes with anti-Asian bias which is more than double the 49 documented cases recorded in 2019. 

Why are these numbers so small? The CSUB report only looked at cases officially designated as hate crimes, which the FBI defines as a “criminal offense 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.” The Department of Justice says that “the ‘crime’ in hate crime is often a violent crime, such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to commit such crimes. It may also cover conspiring or asking another person to commit such crimes, even if the crime was never carried out.” The Department of Justice also notes that “The majority of [hate crimes] were not reported to law enforcement,” which suggests the actual number of hate crimes is likely higher than the reported number.

THE QUESTION

Has there been an increase in reports of anti-Asian hate incidents in the past year?

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, there has been an increase in reports of anti-Asian hate incidents over the past year along with anti-Asian hate crimes.

WHAT WE FOUND

Unlike hate crimes, which according to the Department of Justice are typically violent crimes, incidents like verbal harassment and discrimination are not. This means there are many incidents involving hate and discrimination that would not be categorized as a hate crime. Data on hate incidents, or cases that have not been categorized as “hate crimes,” show a clear increase in incidents and attacks against those of Asian descent in America over the past year. 

Stop AAPI Hate documented 6,603 hate incidents in the U.S. from March 2020 to March 2021 with more still counting through present day. These incidents are self-reported and are continuing to be collected. The organization found that verbal harassment and “shunning,” or the “deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” make up the two most common types of incidents with physical assault comprising the third-largest category of reports. About 64.8% of all incidents were reported by women and 21.7% of incidents cite gender, language and religion as motivating factors for discrimination.

A 2021 survey from AAPI Data and SurveyMonkey conducted days after the mass shooting in Atlanta estimates that “upwards of 2 million Asian American adults have experienced anti-Asian hate incidents since the onset of COVID-19.”

THE QUESTION

Is the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents related to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

THE ANSWER

This is inconclusive.

While we can't VERIFY this as true or false, we can say that the data points to a possible connection.

WHAT WE FOUND

In April 2020, a poll conducted by the New Center for Public Integrity and Ipsos found that about 47% of people surveyed believed that China in general was responsible for the coronavirus. CSUSB researchers concluded in their report that the first spike of COVID cases occurred “amidst a rise in...negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic.” 

The same report notes that the number of hate crimes reported to law enforcement rose 40% from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 to 2020 when the pandemic was widespread.

A report published in July 2020 from the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Asian adults (58%) said it was more common for people to “express racist or racially insensitive views about people who are Asian than it was before the coronavirus outbreak” and “about four-in-ten U.S. adults say it has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began.”

The same report also reveals that about 31% of Asian adults say they have been “subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the outbreak began” and notes that, “This aligns with some reports of incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans since the virus outbreak first emerged in China and then started spreading in the United States.”

Ultimately, we can VERIFY that there has been an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents compared to prior to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes first-person reports of a rise in negative stereotyping and discrimination towards Asians that many say have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. 

VERIFY
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