Denny Kim was going to dinner in Koreatown when he was attacked in February.
Two men approached Kim, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran, and shouted anti-Asian slurs, including “Chinese virus”, before pouncing on him. He was left with a black eye and an injured nose.
“[It was] absolutely unprovoked, ”Kim, who is of Asian descent, told KTLA-TV at the time. “I didn’t know who these guys were.”
He had become one of the growing victims of anti-Asian hate crimes, which continue to rise in Los Angeles and across the country, according to a new study.
The study, carried out by the Center for the Study of Hate in Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, looked at police data from 16 jurisdictions across the country, finding a 164% increase in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes at first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
New York saw the largest increase with 223%, followed by 140% in San Francisco, 80% in Los Angeles and 60% in Boston.
Some cities, including Phoenix, Seattle, and Miami, have not reported any year-over-year change.
Report author Brian Levin said the jurisdictions were chosen because of their large populations of Asian descent and their history of collecting reliable hate crime data.
“There is a national history, and there are also local and regional histories, but it’s pretty consistent,” said Levin, director of the center and professor of criminal justice. “The nature of these crimes is violent.”
While heightened awareness often leads to increased reporting, Levin said the latest findings were significant enough to indicate a real increase in crime.
“Some of this increase that we have seen will certainly be due to what we call the ‘ratio effect’, but not at this level,” he said. “You have all these puzzle pieces that you put together, but it indicates a horrific outbreak of violence against our Asian-American community, which continues.”
Some experts have noted that these attacks are likely underreported due to barriers such as language and technology.
Nine anti-Asian hate crimes were documented in the first quarter of this year in Los Angeles and 12 in San Francisco, up from five in both cities the year before.
Hate crimes are defined as criminal acts motivated by characteristics such as race, religion or sexual orientation. Hate incidents do not increase in criminality, but include acts such as intimidation, name calling and verbal abuse.
California-based organization Stop AAPI Hate said it received nearly 3,800 reports of attacks on Asian Americans nationwide between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021. About 68% were verbal harassment, 21% runaways and 11% physical assaults.
According to Levin’s report, the first quarter increase follows a historic surge that began last March amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and “political and online stigma against Asians.”
In 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes increased 146% in 26 of the country’s largest jurisdictions year on year, according to the report.
This year’s anti-Asian attacks in California and the United States include incidents of spitting, stone-throwing and harassment. Many Asian Americans believe the Atlanta-area shootings in March, which killed eight people, including six Asian women, were hate crimes, although law enforcement said racial bias did not appear to be a pattern.
Experts point to a number of factors behind the outbreak, including the use of stigmatized terms such as “Kung flu” and “Chinese virus” during the pandemic. In March 2020, then-President Trump tweeted the phrase “Chinese virus” more than 20 times, according to the report.
Spikes in Google’s keyword searches for the term “Chinese virus” appeared as recently as January, according to the report – the same month Trump used it in a tweet decrying the number, according to the report. of COVID-19 cases and deaths from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “fake news.” ”
Dorinne Kondo, professor of American and ethnic studies at USC, said the rise in attacks was not surprising.
“There is no question that Trump legitimized the public expression of what some people may have been secretly feeling … but it builds on stories that have been around since his inception,” Kondo said.
Anti-Asian sentiment is woven into much of American and California history, said Kondo, of the California Alien Land Law of 1913, which made land ownership illegal for immigrants, at Japanese prison camps during the Second World War.
New laws and new leadership can help, Kondo added, but the problems won’t go away overnight.
“The problem with hate crime is that it’s not irrational hatred,” she said. “This is the absolutely predictable result of structural inequalities, so these incidents will continue as long as there are structural inequalities.”
In California, several of the recent incidents have been violent and long-lasting.
In one, an Asian woman in El Cerrito was spat and called racist insults in her own garage. In another, a family from Ladera Ranch was repeatedly harassed with stones, verbal attacks and beatings on their door for several months.
In another incident in Los Angeles, an Eagle Rock assailant apparently mistook an elderly Latina woman for an Asian, calling her an anti-Chinese insult before pulling her hair and breaking her nose.
In California, where 15% of residents are Asians or Pacific Islanders, several regions have taken action to deal with the increase in attacks. The Orange County Supervisory Board unanimously passed two resolutions in March denouncing hate crimes and pledging to take action. Huntington Beach took a similar step in April.
The Los Angeles Human Relations Commission launched the LA vs Hate campaign in 2019 to tackle hate issues in the county. Campaign Leader Terri Villa-McDowell said on Tuesday that victims can report hate crimes and hate incidents without going through law enforcement by dialing 211 or filling out an online form. Reports can be produced anonymously and are accessible in 140 languages.
The state is also considering legislation that would create a Hate State Commission, provide more resources to various agencies and the public, require a minimum of four community forums each year, and require a full reporting of crime activities. hate statewide, among others. other goals.
California Assembly Member Richard Bloom, who drafted the bill, Assembly Bill 1126, said he was motivated by “frustration with increased hatred at the local level and in the world”.
“We can’t eradicate hate, but we can name it and try to understand how and why feelings of dislike turn into hateful conduct and hate crimes,” Bloom said in an email.
If the bill becomes law, the commission will be the first of its kind in the country, he said.
If the first quarter results are any indication of what the rest of the year has in store, Levin noted, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“It’s a quarter of a year with just 16 jurisdictions,” he said. “It’s horrible.”