Despite being a sanctuary state, Asian Americans have become the unwitting victims of racially motivated attacks across the country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While bias attacks are nothing new in America—with African Americans and people of color the frequent victims of such assaults–a huge uptick in the number of hate attacks against Asian Americans has once again sparked a discussion that bigotry and discrimination are alive and thriving in the country—even after the unceremonious departure of Donald Trump, according to several recently released studies reports.
According to statistics from the advocacy group STOP AAPI—a California-based advocacy group against hate crimes, there have been more than 3000 reports of hate crimes and violent attacks against Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the attacks were captured on surveillance video. For example, in New York City, an Asian American woman was violently assaulted and thrown to the ground in broad daylight for no apparent reason. And a 91-year-old Asian man was knocked to the ground. Another man was assaulted and knocked to the ground in his driveway—the man later died from the injuries he sustained in the attack. “In the past year, we have seen that it is absolutely critical to invest in tracking the number of hate incidents against Asian Americans that are taking place. Documenting and analyzing the attacks– both in California and across the country—has enabled us to draw attention to this crisis, ensure that our community is not ignored, and advocate on its behalf,” the organization announced in a February press release.
Some attribute the spike in hate crimes in the last year or two to the racist rhetoric that spewed the former administration of Donald Trump. For example, Trump frequently used the term “the China virus,” and “Kung Flu,” when describing events related to or the COVID-19 pandemic. During several speeches, the former president blamed the pandemic on China and/or Asians. According to some experts, the specious verbiage, incendiary dialogue riled up his base supporters of mostly white supremacists, nationalists, and fanatics to target Asian Americans.
The spate of racial attacks has prompted several key figures throughout the state to issue statements condemning racially motivated attacks against diverse communities. For example, New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal released guidelines and offered services to victims of attacks throughout the pandemic. He said, “COVID-19 is no excuse for racism, xenophobia or hate.” Grewal is the first Sikh-American attorney general in the country.
And Jonathan Holloway, president of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said, “These latest inccidents of intolerance add to an increasingly visible and disturbing history of hate in America in the past few years. We strongly denounce these acts and all forms of xenophonbia, bigotry, and racism and we stand in solidarity with our Aisan community at Rutgers and around the world.” Holloway is the first African American president of the state university.
Lastly, some New Jerseyans remember verbal assaults against diverse communities as far back as the late 1970’s. For example, some recall specific incidences of bias attacks against Asian Americans. “I remember the only Asian American girl in our school being taunted in junior high school,” said Vicky Fedor, a dental consultant based in Jackson, NJ. “The Asian girl was quiet, shy and stayed to herself and was being threatened and teased by the female bully of the school for no other reason than being the only “different” student in the class,” Fedor said. “I felt sorry for the girl and stood up for her against the bully.” Fedor said school administrators eventually handled the entire matter. As it turns out, Vicky and the Asian girl she defended some 50 years ago remain friends.