Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Spike Amid Pandemic Leaving Communities Fearing for Their Safety

On January 28, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was viciously attacked in San Francisco. A surveillance camera captured the unprovoked assault which showed a man run up and shove the 84-year-old man to the fall hard onto the pavement. Police later identified the alleged assailant being 19-year-old Antoine Watson. Just days after the incident, Ratanapakdee was pronounced dead.

Three days after Ratanapakdee was shoved to the pavement, a 91-year-old Asian American man was shoved to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown where he was walking outside an Asian Resource Center. This incident caught the attention of Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu who took to social media and announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the suspect, which led to the arrest of Yahya Muslim, 28, who was charged with assault, battery, and elder abuse.

The incidents are the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Asian Americans. The community has suffered escalating discrimination following COVID-19’s arrival in the US last year.

Watson plead not guilty to the charges against him and it is still unclear if Muslim has entered a plea following his arrest.

While horrific, these two incidents are just two among many as anti-Asian racism and hate crimes have spiked following the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Many have blamed Donald Trump’s use of the terms “China Virus” and “Kung Flu,” which he repeatedly used to refer to the novel coronavirus, as a fuel for the racist fire.

Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Spike Amid Pandemic Leaving Community Fearing for Their Safety
Vicha Ratanapakdee / GoFundMe

People citing data from the New York Police Department found a 1,900 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city in the past year. They also looked to an August 2020 UN report stating that from March to May 2020, an eight-week period, there were more than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans in the United States.

A report released last September by the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign, which surveyed nearly 1,000 Asian American young adults, found that eight out of ten respondents expressed anger over the current surge in anti-Asian hate in the United States. An analysis by Stop AAPI Hate, the youth campaign’s parent organization, found that one in ten tweets concerning Asian Americans in the months before the 2020 presidential election contained racist or disparaging language.

“These are hate crimes that are happening,” civil rights activist Amanda Nguyễn told People. “They’re so gruesome and quite frankly, are a direct result of former leaders, former elected officials who have stoked this kind of violence. And that violence has consequences and literally lives being paid for it.”

Late last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order condemning the surge of racism toward the Asian American Pacific Islander community because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Spike Amid Pandemic Leaving Community Fearing for Their Safety

Some political leaders’ focus on the geographic origin of the pandemic has “stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and [has] contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons,” the order stated.

Cities like Oakland have seen an increase in attacks recently. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley explained that in the last two weeks they have identified 19 incidents in Oakland’s Chinatown. 

“Some have been on video, but not all,” she told People. “Some have been reported, but not all. They are violent and they’re attacks by surprise, so the person doesn’t have any opportunity to even defend themselves or cover their head or their hands or their body from attack.”

To help combat the increase in violence, the Alameda County DA’s office has been providing outreach to the Asian American community, with the aim of making people feel more comfortable reporting crimes and educating people about the dangers of xenophobia and discrimination. 

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Posted by Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Friday, February 12, 2021

“We’re putting the full resources of my office and working closely with law enforcement, first, to stop the crimes from happening, to apprehend those that are committing the crimes, and to bring them to justice in the courtroom,” O’Malley said in a statement. 

We hope that these resources will help the Asian American community, which is so unfairly vilified at this tenuous moment. If you see something wrong happening in your community, call it out. Report any crimes that you witness. If you come across disinformation online about Asian Americans, flag it, report it. Follow activists like Amanda Nguyễn online and elsewhere to see how you can get involved. We must all do our part to curve this tide of racism.

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