Federal and local law enforcement agencies are under pressure to step up efforts to combat the growing wave of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the wake of the Atlanta, Georgia spa shootings that left eight people dead. , six of them women of Asian descent.
The FBI and other police forces face criticism for hate crime reporting levels that remain abysmally low, despite several attempts by Congress to highlight the outrages.
Asian American community leaders expressed their dismay on Wednesday, a day after the shootings at three massage parlors, that the discrimination and harassment their communities historically faced continued to be downplayed.
“It takes six Asian American women to die in one day for people to pay attention to this,” Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Forum of Asian and Pacific American Women (NAPAWF), told The Guardian. “The record keeping of hate crimes against Asian Americans is so low because they are not even willing to accept that we are discriminated against and harassed because of our race.”
At latest statistics For hate crimes compiled by the FBI for 2019, a total of 4,930 victims were identified whose motive was race or ethnicity. Of these, 4.4% were victims of anti-Asian biases, compared to 48.5% of biases against blacks and 14.1% of biases against Hispanics.
The data is widely accepted as a serious understatement of the hate crime problem in America today, even for Asian Americans. A federal law has existed since 1990 that requires records of hate crimes to be kept, but it is largely ineffective as individual police forces are not required to participate.
As a result, nearly 90% of the law enforcement organizations involved in the 2019 hate crime study did not report any incidents, a blank filing that many civil rights advocates find frankly unbelievable. On top of that, a federal report released in February found that more than 40% of hate crimes are never reported to authorities.
“We don’t even have a clear picture of the true amount of hate crimes in the United States. The FBI can tell you how many bank robberies occurred in the past year, but it can’t tell you an actual assessment of the bias crimes, ”said Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice, who worked in the 1990s as an undercover FBI agent undercover in white supremacists. groups.
German noted that between 2017 and 2018 there were 230,000 violent hate crimes, according to a Justice Department survey of victims. However, during the same period, the Justice Department only processed 50 hate crime cases.
“That is an indication of the lack of interest and priority that the federal government gives to this issue,” said German.
In the absence of credible official figures, Asian American groups have tried to fill the gap by collecting self-reported data on their own. On the eve of the Atlanta shootings, the Stop AAPI Hate group launched a new report detailing 3,795 incidents of verbal harassment, physical assault, workplace discrimination, and other forms of prejudice that occurred during the pandemic.
The group said the incidents represented “only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it shows how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination.”
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is another group that encourages self-reporting of hate and harassment through their hate tracker, StandAgainstHatred.org. Marita Etcubañez, the organization’s senior director of strategic initiatives, said chronic underreporting of hate incidents had many causes, including people’s reluctance to engage with law enforcement and a lack of language support.
“Many immigrants distrust the government and do not trust that they will receive the help and support they need if they report,” he said.
Women and Asian Americans appear to have been a particular target in the wave of incidents ranging from verbal assaults to brutal attacks. In January, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was fatally attacked on the streets of San Francisco.
Choimorrow said there was an increase in hate incidents during the pandemic. Her group, NAPAWF, had conducted a survey to be released soon that found that about 50% of Chinese-American women in the sample had experienced racist slurs in public, rising to 64% of Korean-American women.
She said she could personally attest to that. “I have experienced racism directed at me around the pandemic just walking through my Chicago neighborhood. A man chased me and my daughter down the street yelling ‘Go back to China and take your virus with you!’ ”.
The precise motivation of the male Atlanta spa shooter remains unclear, with some reports suggesting that it may have been more sexual in nature than racial. But fears among Asian Americans have been heightened by the killings, adding to the rise in hate incidents that followed the xenophobic description of the coronavirus as former US President Donald Trump’s coronavirus. “Chinese virus”.
Joe Biden addressed the shootings on Wednesday. “Whatever the motivation here, I know Asian Americans, they are very concerned, because as you know, I have been talking about brutality against Asian Americans and it is worrying,” he said.
In his first week in office, the president signed an executive order designed to combat racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He condemned the “inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric” without mentioning Trump by name.
The order also instructed the US attorney general, already confirmed as former federal judge Merrick Garland, to “expand data collection and public reporting on hate incidents.”
German said that in the wake of the Atlanta shootings, the justice department would now be in the spotlight.
“Garland will be under pressure to do more. The public is concerned about hate crimes and the significant increase in violence against Asian Americans, ”he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism