An increasing number of people the last several months have claimed on social media that hate crimes and discrimination toward Asian Americans and people of Asian descent across the globe have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world in 2020, including people from within the the U.S. Department of Justice.
That discussion exploded online after a white man killed eight people, mostly Asian women, at spas in the Atlanta area on March 16.
The data to back that argument can be slow to update. But the information currently available supports the anecdotal evidence of a rise in hate crimes against the Asian community.
Have anti-Asian hate crimes increased in the past year compared to years past?
WHY WE ARE VERIFYING
The discussion of racist violence toward Asian-Americans has grown this week following a mass shooting with mostly Asian victims. Before the Atlanta shootings, there were many publicized reports of anti-Asian violence and discrimination in cities nationwide.
Yes, preliminary data show that there has been an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the past year, despite the fact that hate crimes overall decreased in the last year.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Center for Study of Hate & Extremism published a report documenting changes in hate crime patterns in 2020 in 16 American cities. In those 16 cities, which include most of the United States’ largest cities, anti-Asian hate crimes rose by 149% in 2020 while overall hate crimes dropped by seven percent.
In 2019, there were 49 documented cases of hate crimes with anti-Asian bias in those 16 cities, while in 2020 there were 122 such cases. The total number of hate crimes documented in those cities was 1,845 in 2019 and 1,717 in 2020.
While the sample size is small, the increase is clearly there. That’s more than double the number of hate crimes from the year before.
Normally, the FBI compiles the data on hate crimes across the United States, but they don’t publish their annual report until November of the following year. That means we have their 2019 data, but not their 2020 data.
But, based on the totals and percentages of the FBI’s 2019 data, we can estimate there were about 217 cases of anti-Asian hate crimes across the entire United States in 2019. So researchers were able to find more than half of the 2019 anti-Asian hate crimes across all of the U.S. in 2020 across just 16 cities, which account for just less than nine percent of the total U.S. population.
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But the FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The FBI also notes “hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”
That means statistics measuring hate crimes don’t include data on reports of discrimination, harassment, and general racist or hateful acts that don’t eventually end up a criminal conviction.
A group called Stop AAPI Hate (AAPI stands for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders) recently released a report documenting reports they’ve received of hate incidents. They say verbal harassment makes up 68.1% of the reports they receive, shunning makes up 20.5% of those reports, physical assault makes up 11.1% of reports and civil rights violation makes up 8.5% of the incidents. It’s unlikely many cases of verbal harassment and shunning lead to a criminal conviction that can later be determined to be a hate crime, which means a majority of the reported discrimination Asian-Americans receive would not be included in the hate crime data, nor would much of the discrimination other marginalized groups receive be included.
To know the full extent of an increase in hate crimes toward Asian people amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll need to wait for the FBI to release its 2020 data in November. However, preliminary data from the smaller sample size of several large American cities show an increase in hate crimes in those cities.
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