US President Joe Biden has signed legislation to combat the growing number of anti-Asian attacks. What's behind the hate?
An elderly Thai immigrant dies after being pushed to the ground. A Filipino American is slashed across the face with a carpet knife. A Chinese woman is beaten and then set on fire. Eight people are killed in one night in a stampede at three Asian spas.
These are just examples of recent violent attacks against Asian-Americans, part of a wave of abuse since the pandemic began a year ago.
From spitting and verbal harassment to physical assault, thousands of cases have been reported in recent months.
Advocates and activists say these are hate crimes and often involve rhetoric blaming Asians for the spread of Covid-19.
What's happening in the US?
The FBI warned early on in the US Covid outbreak that it expected hate crimes against people of Asian descent to rise.
Federal hate crime data for 2020 has yet to be released, although hate crimes in 2019 hit the highest level in more than a decade.
At the end of last year, the United Nationsissued a reportIt described "an alarming level" of racially motivated violence and other hateful incidents against Asian Americans.
It is difficult to obtain exact numbers for such crimes and cases of discrimination because no organization or government agency tracks the problem in the long term and reporting patterns can differ from region to region.
Advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate said it was receivedmore than 2,800 reports of hate incidentslast year it targeted Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country. The group set up its online self-disclosure tool early in the pandemic.
Local law enforcement is also paying attention: New York City's Hate Crimes Task Force investigated 27 incidents in 2020, a ninefold increase from the previous year. In Oakland, California, police added patrols and established a command post in Chinatown.
Celebrities and influencers alike have spoken out after several troubling incidents went viral on social media.
Here are some of the recently reported attacks:
- An 84-year-old Thai immigrant in San Francisco, California, died in February after being brutally pushed to the ground during his morning walk.
- A 91-year-old man was pushed onto the sidewalk from behind in Oakland, California
- An 89-year-old Chinese woman was beaten and set on fire by two people in Brooklyn, New York
- Two Asian-American women were stabbed to death at a San Francisco bus stop; Eyewitness accounts say the assailant "casually walked away in broad daylight"
- An Asian man walking his 1-year-old son in a stroller in San Francisco was beaten multiple times on the head and back.
- A stranger on the New York subway slashed a 61-year-old Filipino-American passenger's face with a knife.
- An Asian-American woman in New York City was hit in the head with a hammer by an unknown assailant who demanded she remove her mask.
- Employees at Asian-American restaurants in New York City told The New York Times they are now returning home early over fears of violence and harassment.
- The owner of an Asian-American butcher shop in Sacramento, Calif., found a dead cat - presumably intended for her - in the store's parking lot; Police investigate hate crimes
- An Asian-American family celebrating their birthdays at a restaurant in Carmel, Calif., was met with racial slurs from a technology executive who supported Trump.
- Several Asian-American homeowners say they have been abused with racial slurs and stones thrown at their homes
- The only Asian-American lawmaker in the Kansas legislature says he was physically threatened at a bar by a patron who accused him of having the coronavirus
- New York police arrested a man who assaulted a woman at a protest against anti-Asian racism
- A bereaved family received a hateful letter on the day of their father's funeral, urging them to "pack your bags and go back to your country where you belong".
- A school board candidate of Vietnamese descent in Portland, Oregon found a sign that read "Kung Flu" on her door
- A Filipino medical worker in Los Gatos, California was pushed to the ground from behind by an assailant who told her to "go back to China".
- A Thai woman was brutally beaten and her phone stolen while traveling by train in San Francisco
How is the situation in California?
More than six million Asian Americans live in California, by far the most of any US state, according to the latest population estimates.
They represent more than 15% of the state's residents.
The coronavirus hit the state hard and early, bringing its bustling cities and businesses to a halt. The virus has killed more than 50,000 Californians.
From March to May 2020 alone, more than 800 Covid-related hate incidents were reported across 34 counties across the state, according to a report released by the Asia Pacific Policy Planning Board.
Since then, those numbers have gotten worse in Orange County, where incidents of hatred towards Asians are estimated to have increased by 1,200%, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
In neighboring Los Angeles County, hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 115%, CBS News reported.
What's the reaction?
Supporters of Asian Americans say the violence may be linked to rising anti-Asian sentiment in the US.
Some have directly blamed the anti-China rhetoric of former President Donald Trump, who frequently referred to the pandemic as the "China virus" or "kung flu".
In his first week in office, President Biden signed an executive order essentially banning the use of such language in the federal government.
And with Democrats now controlling both houses of Congress, lawmakers and activists are demanding more attention and resources on the issue.
On May 20, Mr. Biden signed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act to combat the rising rate of anti-Asian attacks.
The bill will appoint a US Department of Justice official to expedite reviews of violent and hate crimes related to Covid-19. It also provides grants to state and local governments to improve their own reporting systems.
The bipartisan measure passed Congress in early May with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.
"We must come together as one people, as one nation," Biden said at the bill's signing ceremony at the White House. He condemned hate as "an ugly poison that has long plagued and haunted our nation".
At the state level, California lawmakers have allocated $1.4m (£1m) in state funding to expand data collection, advocacy initiatives and resources for victims.
Locally there are also more local efforts to fight hate.
In Orange County, neighbors stepped in to help an Asian-American family after a group of teenagers repeatedly assaulted them for months without police intervention. Neighbors now stand guard outside the family home every night,The Washington Post reported.
Why is this happening?
These incidents are best explained by the "pervasive omission" of Asian Americans from cultural conversations, according to Amanda Nguyen, activist and founder of the nonprofit civil rights organization Rise.
While the Asian population grew faster than other major groups in the last US census, the community's stories are not widely reported in the media and their concerns are not being addressed by political parties, Nguyen told the BBC.
Some federal agencies don't even include the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in their definitions of racial minorities, she notes.
Nguyen says people who have been targeting Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic "can't really differentiate and don't care if we're X, Y, or Z."
"They made us a scapegoat to impose their violence."
For Nguyen, the more visible anti-Asian crimes are, the better. She notes that legislation can help solve the problem, but the US also needs a culture change.
"We are in a moment of reckoning right now," adds Ms. Nguyen. "We've been systematically eliminated at every level, and people can fight that by finding out about us."
Reporting by Sam Cabral
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