Anti-Asian violence has increased in the United States during the pandemic, especially in cities in blue states

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(THE CONVERSATION) It ​​is well known that Asian Americans have felt – and have been – persecuted during the pandemic. But the extent of this violence and its uneven geographic distribution across the United States is now much clearer, thanks to research I conducted with collaborators at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the independent research firm Development Services Group.

The Asian American-Pacific Islander Equity Alliance, a California-based nonprofit, collected reports of 10,370 “hate incidents” from March 2020 to September 2021. Categories of these incidents include verbal harassment, corporate denial of service and online abuse, as well as assaults and property damage.

My staff and I looked specifically at violent attacks on Asian Americans or their property from 1990 to 2021. In the 30 years leading up to the pandemic, we identified public reports of 210 attacks violent anti-Asian attacks in total, an average of 8.1 per year. But in 2020 and 2021, there were 163 attacks, an average of 81.5 per year – more than 11 times the previous average.

Pandemic triggers violence

Minorities and other vulnerable groups have been targets of persecution in public health crises throughout history. In 14th century Europe, Jews were blamed for the bubonic plague. In 1900, the Chinese were unjustly blamed for an outbreak of plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And in the 1980s, Haitians were wrongly accused of bringing HIV/AIDS to the United States.

Our data revealed that prior to 2020, the average number of Asian Americans killed or injured in anti-Asian attacks was just over eight per year. In 2020 and 2021, however, 49 were physically injured, an average of almost 25 per year.

We found that nearly half of anti-Asian attacks in 2020 and 2021 were driven, at least in part, by anger and animosity associated with COVID-19, a disease first identified in Asia. For example, in June 2020, an Asian restaurant in New Jersey was vandalized with graffiti reading “coronavirus” and “COVID-19.” And in February 2021, Denny Kim, a 27-year-old Korean American veteran of the US Air Force, was beaten by two men who shouted anti-Asian slurs at him and called him a “Chinese virus”.

Continuation of earlier patterns of violence

Additional anti-Asian attacks in 2020 and 2021 tended to occur in the same locations that had experienced high levels of anti-Asian violence before the pandemic.

Prior to 2020, about half of these attacks occurred in the New York metropolitan area and in California’s urban centers. During the pandemic, almost 60% of attacks occurred in these same regions. With a higher number of Asian American residents, these places may seem more prone to anti-Asian violence, but they are not home to 60% of Asian Americans, so the level of anti-Asian violence Asian is still disproportionately high.

Most anti-Asian violence, before and during the pandemic, has occurred in urban and suburban areas of generally progressive states.

Regardless of when they happened, the attacks were also of similar types. Before the pandemic, more than 70% of anti-Asian hate crimes personally targeted people of Asian descent, such as a 2016 attack on a Chinese exchange student by an alleged white supremacist.

About 20% of attacks targeted property owned or regularly used by Asian Americans, such as in 2008 when someone painted racist graffiti on a trash can behind an Asian market in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in a park next to.

During the pandemic, the proportions were similar: about 60% of anti-Asian attacks were directed against people and about a third against their property.

Some changes in trends too

According to our analysis, during the pandemic, more violence was spontaneous, rather than planned, than it was before 2020. Most other hate crimes are unplanned.

We also found that a higher proportion of attacks were carried out by a single person than was normal before the pandemic.

Overall, our findings support and confirm the experiences of Asian Americans who reported being targeted for violence more often during the pandemic.

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