Community Advocates Argue For Better Tracking of Asian-American Hate Crimes
Speaker 1: 00:00 The suspect in an attack against an elderly Filipino woman in San Diego has his first court appearance. Today. The 35 year old man is facing charges of assault and elder abuse, but not a hate crime. The attack in San Diego last week is being seen as part of a string of attacks nationwide against Asian-Americans in Northern California. A number of incidents against Asian-Americans included the death of an 84 year old man last month. Heated rhetoric from officials against China is thought to have provoked the attacks, but advocates say until we have a better accounting of hate crimes in the country, we won't know the extent of the problem. Joining me is Manju Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific policy and planning council in Los Angeles and a lecture in the Asian American studies department of UCLA. Also co-founder of stop a P I hate in Los Angeles. And Manjoo thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. What have we learned about the reasons for these attacks and are they related in any way? Well, at stop the API Speaker 2: 01:08 Kate, an organization that we founded last March, we know that there is, um, significant amount of acts of hate against Asian-Americans from across the country. Uh, we've received over 2,800 incident reports from 47 States and the district of Columbia. And while we don't know, um, the motives or circumstances yet in these particular incidents, uh, we don't yet have all the details. We know that this is part of that larger problem, um, that we've seen over the last year. Speaker 1: 01:43 It seems many of the victims that we're hearing about are elderly. Are they thought of as easy targets? Speaker 2: 01:50 That's exactly right. Yes. We know from our data that those who are seen as vulnerable do get targeted more often. That includes the elderly young people. And then also women actually, who have reported incidents at two and a half times. The rate of men, Speaker 1: 02:06 The attack here in San Diego was charged as assault and elder abuse, but not a hate crime are hate crimes, difficult to prove Speaker 2: 02:17 Often they can be. Um, but what we know is that I think unfortunately, um, law enforcement doesn't always identify hate crimes as that in fact, a state auditor's report from 2017 for California found that in up to 50% of incidents, law enforcement failed to properly identify them as hate crimes. So we know that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of trainings, if they are in fact, due to hate that they are identified as such, Speaker 1: 02:50 What kinds of rhetoric could possibly be provoking these attacks? Speaker 2: 02:55 Well, certainly we know from the last year that racist rhetoric used by president Trump was a factor. Um, many of the individuals who reported to us in fact said that perpetrators used his language in committing the offense. So they use terms like Wu Han virus, Kung flu China virus. Um, and sometimes they even weaponized the president himself saying that Trump is going to FAQ. Trump is going to send you back to your country. So that is one factor. And we know just from our examination of Asian-American history, there, there has, um, for over a hundred years been, uh, anti-Asian sentiment. That's been with us. It led to the Chinese exclusion act. It led to the Japanese American internment. Um, and so many other things sort of in the course of the 20th century. Speaker 1: 03:52 Can you tell us about some of the incidents that you've heard about over the course of the pandemic Speaker 2: 03:57 They range from, um, you know, individuals experiencing verbal assault or harassment, an elderly couple who is taking their grandchild for a walk in their neighborhood? Uh, car of young people drove up and yelled racial epithets at them, um, in a very menacing way. It, it obviously scared the grandparents, uh, we've seen at stores, um, that individuals are refused service where the store cashier will not serve them, or we'll make comments to them. We've also seen a discrimination in the workplace where individuals have been told to go home on a day that there's, COVID when there's no evidence that they've had it they've actually tested negative, but they happened to be the one Asian American in the office. And then we have seen physical attacks, um, including, uh, one of a young man, uh, a middle school student who was a physically attacked, uh, actually a year ago in February. Uh, he was accused of having COVID just because he's Asian-American and was punched in the head 20 times because of that animus. Speaker 1: 05:07 So are there concerns about what will happen to Asian-American kids when schools reopen Speaker 2: 05:11 That's exactly right. We are worried about that. We're actually looking into that now working with local officials and even, you know, uh, state educators to really think about, you know, what does it mean when our schools, where you open a, we've already seen a number of incidents even during shelter in place, uh, where schools have been opened and young Asian-American kids have been tormented by their peers. So, uh, I think we need to be proactive and know and understand what's going on and be ready to deal with it when it happens Speaker 1: 05:48 Now at his confirmation hearing for us attorney general yesterday, Merrick Garland said investigating hate groups and hate crimes would a high priority in the justice department. Do you think that kind of commitment has been lacking? Speaker 2: 06:03 It has been lacking until recently. Um, but we were very heartened by the Biden memorandum or executive order that was issued the first week of the new administration, condemning racist language, condemning these type of attacks against our community members and also directing the department of justice to begin to work with community groups like ours, to better understand the problem and take action because that's what's needed right now. Um, not in weeks or months from now, but today we need our leaders on the local state and federal levels to take action and begin to help us solve this problem. Speaker 1: 06:45 And how is the very broad and diverse Asian American community responding to these threats? Is there a lot of fear? Speaker 2: 06:52 There is so much fear and trepidation right now, and we see it, you know, in young people, those of middle age and elders I've seen on social media that young people really are worried about their parents or grandparents going out at all, you know, going to the store, taking a walk in their neighborhood, um, being in the park. And then they're of course, you know, nervous about what this means, right? It creates a feeling of otherness, a lack of belonging. And, you know, at a time of COVID when we all need to be coming together, uh, it really creates alienation and with it, uh, additional anxiety and depression, Speaker 1: 07:35 I've been speaking with Manju Kulkarni. She is co-founder of stop AAPI hate, and Manjoo thank you so much for speaking with us. Speaker 2: 07:43 Thank you again for having me.