The Rise of Hate Crimes

Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled anti-Asian and Pacific Islander (API) and anti-LGBTQ sentiment across the United States

Movement Advancement Project


Editor’s note: this blog is strictly focused on hate crimes that are tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as we mourn the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, we would be remiss if we did not also acknowledge the terrible rise in overall hate violence and police brutality that we have seen in recent months. Today, MAP joined a statement from leading LGBTQ organizations making an explicit commitment to embrace anti-racism and end white supremacy, not as necessary corollaries to our mission, but as integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people. Today, we stand together again to say #BlackLivesMatter and commit ourselves to the action those words require.

Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled anti-Asian and Pacific Islander (API) and anti-LGBTQ sentiment across the United States.

Anti-API sentiment — and anti-API violence — grows.

As retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses begin to reopen their doors in many states across the country, business owners in API communities have worries beyond keeping their employees and customers safe from COVID-19. API business owners are also worried about losing patronage and becoming targets of racial animus over the stigma associated with COVID-19 originating in China and the widespread economic and health crisis it has caused.

According to the Center for Public Integrity and Ipsos, 3 in 10 Americans have witnessed someone blaming AAPI people for the pandemic. And since its launch at the end of March, the STOP AAPI HATE Reporting Center has received over 1,700 reports of COVID-19 discrimination from AAPI people across the country, with reports coming from 45 states and the District of Columbia. What’s more, nine out of ten respondents said they were targeted because of their race, and more than one-third of incidents took place in public places such as streets, parks, and on public transit.

Hate incidents experienced by API people over the past few months have gone far beyond blaming them for the pandemic. In fact, these incidents include verbal harassment, workplace discrimination, and sometimes violent attacks, such as the March 14 stabbing of a Hmong American family in Texas and an April 5 acid attack on a Chinese American woman in Brooklyn.

As the political rhetoric blaming China for the pandemic continues — including references to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” by the Trump Administration and other public officials — civil rights groups warn of increasing rates of hate crimes against people in the API community, especially as businesses and states begin to reopen. As Benny Luo, an Asian entrepreneur and founder of Next Shark states, “I feel like I speak for many Asian Americans when I say I am fearful, a little angry, and frustrated at the uncertainty of the entire situation.”

But despite an increase in reports of racism toward API people, many advocates believe that incidents of discrimination are much higher still. While underreporting of hate crimes is common across all communities, it is particularly true for Asian Americans due to cultural aversions to, or negative experiences with, law enforcement and other government officials.

A big part of Asian culture is blending into the background and not being seen. They say the nail that sticks out will be the first to be hammered. Culturally, you don’t want to rock the boat; everything is OK and everything is normal.

— Michael Nguyen, Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA)

LGBTQ People Are Also Targeted.

The rise of hate crimes against API people during the pandemic is deeply concerning. What’s more, there is evidence that LGBTQ people, who already experience high rates of violence and harassment, have also been targeted as some fringe groups have framed COVID-19 as righteous punishment for supporting homosexuality — rhetoric reminiscent to stigma regarding the transmission of HIV/AIDS in LGBTQ communities.

And anti-LGBTQ violence, before the pandemic and even today, disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women, who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities that limit equitable access to employment, housing, healthcare, and more. In 2020, at least 11 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed, including seven Black transgender women in Florida over the past two years and reports of a Black transman killed by police earlier this week in Florida. These incidents of violence, however, often are misreported or not reported at all.

Cynthia Choi, co-executive director for Chinese for Affirmative Action, states that individuals most likely to be targeted during the pandemic are people who were already living in situations where safety has been an issue, especially for people with intersectional identities: “Those who were already vulnerable — whether you’re an immigrant, undocumented, or because of your gender and sexuality — the pandemic has amplified that. Those who were suffering before the pandemic, their situation is worse off.”

Now is not the time for hate. During this time of uncertainty, we must all be ready to do our part in fighting back racism and hate violence directed at API people and all marginalized communities.

Resources to Combat Anti-API Racism

Take Action

  • Report incidents of hate with Stop AAPI Hate from Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University
  • Attend Bystander Intervention Training with AAJC



Movement Advancement Project

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