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Society

Anti-Asian hate crimes top 10,000 in U.S. since start of pandemic

Big cities see surge in incidents, from New York to San Francisco

A screen displays victims of Asian hate crimes during a candlelight vigil for Michelle Go, who was killed after being pushed in front of a subway train by a homeless man in Times Square in New York City.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- To many Asian Americans, the killing of Michelle Alyssa Go at the Times Square subway station early this year was a chilling reminder of how hate crimes against their community remain unabated during a prolonged pandemic.

The latest number from advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate confirms that the trend is holding up.

A total of 10,905 hate incidents were reported between March 19, 2020, and the end of December 2021, according to the group's new national report. Almost 40% more incidents had occurred in 2021 than in the roughly nine-month period of 2020.

More than 60% of incidents were reported by women. About 67% of incidents involved harassment, around 16% involved physical assault, and roughly 16% involved avoidance or shunning.

Chinese Americans were targeted in nearly 43% of incidents reported -- more than any other Asian ethnicity.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans surged in the coronavirus era. Inflammatory rhetoric by then-President Donald Trump, who repeatedly used the term "China virus," only exacerbated anti-Asian bias.

Go, a 40-year-old who worked at a major accounting firm, died after being pushed in front of an oncoming train. Hundreds of people gathered in nearby Times Square after Go's death to honor her as well as speak out against anti-Asian attacks.

President Joe Biden has worked to combat this trend, signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May. But this has not translated into significant improvement on the ground.

The increase has been most pronounced in major cities with large Asian populations. About 130 anti-Asian hate incidents were reported to police in New York City in 2021, up sharply from 28 in 2020, while San Francisco saw a sextupling to 60. Because hate crimes are often difficult to prove, the real totals are believed to be even higher.

In February, the Manhattan district attorney's office announced the indictment of a man on charges of murder as a hate crime in the death of Yao Pan Ma, a 61-year-old Chinese immigrant. Ma was assaulted in April 2021 while out collecting cans and died from his injuries at the end of the year.

He was targeted "for no other reason than his race," District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a news release.

In another incident in New York, a man was arrested March 2 and charged with hate crimes in connection with assaults on seven women of Asian descent within two hours.

"Education is one of the most effective tools against racism," the Stop AAPI Hate report argues. Illinois and New Jersey have passed laws requiring Asian American history to be included in school curricula, and a dozen other states are considering similar legislation.

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