Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Are on the Rise—and the Community is Fighting Back


Pedestrians walk through Manhattan’s Koreatown, on 32nd Street between Madison Ave. and 6th Ave. on Saturday, February 27, 2021.

Asian Americans across the country have experienced wide-spread forms of harassment and violence triggered by Covid-19—and the community is speaking out about what is happening and organizing to protest against it.

In recent weeks, there have been a disturbing spike of incidents. Just last Thursday, a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed near the rally site and the week before a 52-year-old woman was forcefully shoved to the ground.  Both suffered severe injuries.

According to the NYC Commission on Human Rights, anti-Asian hate crimes and bias incidents are up an alarming 85% from previous years.  Between February and December 2019, 30 incidents were reported and in the same 11-month period in 2020, that number increased to 205. These reports reflect only reported incidents and officials say there are more.

“Whether this reaction is because of stress, fear, or deep-seated racism, it has had a profound impact on the Asian-American community in the U.S.” said a report by the Asian American Bar Association of New York and Paul Weiss, a New York City-based international law firm.

After a slew of incidents of random violent attacks targeting Asians and linked to the coronavirus pandemic, city officials, public figures, and residents are fighting back.  Even Asian American celebrities have been outspoken on  media with campaigns with various hash tags, including #StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate.

Olivia Munn, the actress, pleaded on an Instagram post to followers to step forward to track the suspect that had pushed the 52-year-old woman, who she had had  been her friend’s mother.  On Thursday, NBA superstar Jeremy Lin shared a post Thursday talking about his experiences with racism.  “We are tired of being told that we don’t experience racism, we are tired of being told to keep our heads down and not make trouble,” said Lin. “Being a 9-year NBA veteran doesn’t protect me from being called ‘coronavirus’ on the court.”

And, on Saturday afternoon, a group of protesters gathered in Foley Square  in solidarity to address the spike of incidents and to condemn these racial acts of violence in New York and nationwide.

“Every community needs to stand with the Asian community right now because if Asian Americans are being attacked every single one of us is vulnerable,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.  “Hate doesn’t stop with one group it spreads to every group. History has taught us that over and over again.” 

On a personal level, what is happening is hard to shake for many who have been have confronted almost everywhere they turn– on the streets and subways.  Notably common were discomforting incidents of subdued forms of racism, public harassments, or assaults.

Hanbyeol Koo, an international graduate student at Columbia University, said that two weeks ago he was reading an article in Korean on his phone while riding the subway.  He was minding his own business, he said, when a man yelled “I hate Koreans.”  “I was very surprised and offended by him because I had never expected such a thing would ever happen to me,” said Koo.

Experiences of micro-agression and indignation have been pervasive among Asian Americans since peak of COVID last spring.  Joanne Zhou’s, a hospital worker of Chinese descent, recalled how a man jumped at her on the streets, startling her with a loud noise.  “I felt uneasy,” Zhou said.

Others argue that while COVID made anti-Asian bias more pronounced, it’s actually been around for a long while.  

“I feel like a lot of Asian Americans right now feel disenfranchised by the lack of attention they’re getting,” said Melissa Howe, a young woman of Chinese origin, who said had been personally attacked on a recent trip to Boston when a man started yelling racial slurs and obscenities at her, accusing her of “spreading COVID in his hometown.”

“COVID has just loosened people’s tongues and even fist to Asian Americans,” said Howe. “But I think there’s always been sentiments of this, but we’ve just seen it more hidden.” 

A reverberating uneasiness were also evident to many Asian Americans, who say, they feel insecure in some parts of the city.

 “I don’t really want to stray out of Manhattan at this point just because spending more time on the subways,” said Alyssa Reyes, who is of Filipino descent.  I don’t know if anything’s going to happen.” 

Still, many Asian Americans in the city, just like those who demonstrated on Saturday, believe that the community can stand up forcibly against this trend.

“I think a lot of this stems from xenophobia stoked by our prior leaders and the community we live in,” said Sandra Choi, who is a civic participation manager at the Minkwon Center, a community action center in Flushing Queens.  “We are a community made up of immigrants and everyone’s from a different part of the globe.”

She pointed that everyone can fight back at this behavior taking place in the community.

“I think the more awareness that we could spread, hopefully, that’ll start helping,” said Reyes.