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An increase in Anti-Asian hate

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in anti-Asian hate — and an increasingly prevalent myth that Black people are behind the attacks. The repeated media coverage of several videos showing Black individuals attacking Asian Americans has further contributed to the false narrative.

Despite the high-profile videos, there is no evidence to suggest that the main perpetrators of anti-Asian hate are Black.

Louise Liu, AAJC

According to the University of Michigan’s Virulent Hate Projecta report on news articles about instances of anti-Asian hate in 2020, 75% of perpetrators of physical attacks — and 89.6% of perpetrators of all forms of anti-Asian harassment — were white. These findings are consistent with a previous study, which reviewed FBI hate crime statistics from 1992–2014; 75% of offenders of anti-Asian hate crimes were identified as white. These findings, while limited, counter the narrative that perpetrators of anti-Asian hate are predominantly Black.

While data collection is a key component of better understanding anti-Asian hate, focusing on the race of the perpetrators is extremely reductive and does little to help the Asian American community in the face of the attacks. Rather than focusing on the race of the perpetrators, we should strive toward understanding the conditions that allow for such violence and hate to occur in order to dismantle them.

Why does the misconception exist?

Asian Americans have often reported feeling “invisible.” As we hear story after story and see video after video of our communities being hurt, many feel powerless. And as a result, some — not limited to members of the Asian American community — feel propelled to find answers, even in the form of a scapegoat. Unfortunately, it is often easier to scapegoat a group of people than to consider the deeper, systemic factors contributing to certain crimes, such as limited access to mental health resources, inequitable public school education, and low barriers to gun ownership.

Despite no evidence to suggest that the main perpetrators of anti-Asian hate are Black, the narrative of Black-on-Asian conflict is perpetuated by those who want to stir up hate and division within our two communities.

Louise Liu, AAJC

Maintained by the virality of videos of Black perpetrators committing anti-Asian hate, those bad actors continue to share the videos more widely while knowing that most of these videos exist because security camera footage is more prevalent and available in “low-income, urban areas,” where many communities of color reside. Coupled with the fact that news, in general, tends to overreport on and overrepresent Black perpetrators in crime-related stories, these videos are then shared virally, domestically, and abroad by individuals from a number of groups, including well-intentioned allies, vocal activists, frightened community members, as well as fearmongers.

Some news aggregators even re-post and re-contextualize the same videos as new content to new audiences, misleading viewers into believing that the same horrific crimes are constantly and newly occurring. An additional few even attach Black faces to stories of anti-Asian hate when the race of the perpetrator is not named.

The History of Interracial Collaboration between Black and Asian American Communities

Not only is the perpetuation of stories and videos of Black-on-Asian conflict extremely harmful and reductive, it also completely overlooks the interracial collaboration between Black and Asian American communities. Such is the framing around the 1992 Los Angeles uprising: while it’s commonly cited that Koreatown was disproportionately affected by the riots throughout downtown Los Angeles, decades of Black and Korean community leaders’ collective efforts to rebuild and heal are rarely mentioned.

In fact, there is a long history of Black and Asian Americans working together: In the late 60s, Asian American students joined forces with Black and other ethnic student organizations to form the Third World Liberation Front and fight for the creation of ethnic studies. The term “Asian American” was first coined during this time in part due to inspiration from the radical activism of the Black Power movement. In 1965, activist Yuri Kochiyama fought alongside ally and friend Malcolm X until his death. In 1984, Jesse Jackson took time away from his presidential campaign to protest the killing of Vincent Chin. And in 2020, various Asian and Black communities came together in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the spike in anti-Asian hate.

While there have been moments of tension between our communities, it is important to remember the intersectional collaboration and allyship we have built throughout history and push back against malicious actors who seek to drive a wedge between us.

Louise Liu, AAJC

Black and Asian American communities, along with other marginalized communities, must work in solidarity to achieve the civil and human rights we deserve and to deliver equity for all.

To learn more about Black and Asian allyship, check out Combatting Anti-Blackness: Resources for the Asian American Community and our Solidarity Reading List.

This article was originally published on Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC’s blog site.

Louise Liu is the Anti-Hate Communications Coordinator at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, in Washington D.C.