Liberal New York City Leads Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

The surveillance camera footage is grainy but captures enough to horrify. A tall, heavy-set man kicks a small Asian woman in the stomach, knocking her over, then stamps on her head, spinning around almost theatrically before slamming his foot down again.

Such wanton acts of brutality are rare occurrences. Or, at least, occurrences rarely caught on camera. And this one happened in the heart of New York City, one of America's most liberal and diverse; yet, paradoxically, a city leading the rise in reported anti-Asian hate crimes.

The latest victim, a 65-year-old woman walking to church in Manhattan when her assailant struck, is recovering in hospital from serious injuries. The suspect, now in custody, added racial insult to physical injury, using anti-Asian slurs and telling her she doesn't "belong here."

The Brodsky Organization, which owns the apartment building outside of which the attack happened, suspended the staff who witnessed the incident. Surveillance footage shows nobody intervening immediately, and one staff member closing the door as the victim lay on the floor.

Though this shocking incident now has the nation's attention, it was the Atlanta spa shootings in which six of the eight victims were of Asian descent that first pulled focus to the blight of anti-Asian violence. Investigators are not currently classifying it as a hate crime.

It is, however, the low key violence, harassment and abuse of the kind seen in the Manhattan assault that better reflects the hatred commonly faced by people of color as they go about their lives. And for Asian-Americans, data suggests those in New York City are most vulnerable.

A recent report by California State University's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSUSB) found that, of America's 16 largest cities, New York had the highest number anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in 2020, and also the largest annual increase by far.

There were 28 recorded last year in New York City as the pandemic and anger at China inflamed racist hatred towards Asians, an 833 percent rise from 2019. By comparison, the overall rise in anti-Asian hate crime for the 16 cities was 145 percent.

And while New York City's population has a relatively large portion of Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI)—14.5 percent—those cities with similar or larger proportions have not seen the same level of increase in hate crimes targeting this group.

California's San Diego, for example, is 17.2 percent AAPI but recorded only one anti-Asian hate crime in 2020 compared to none in 2019. Seattle, Washington, has a 16.9 percent AAPI population and saw anti-Asian hate crime rise 33 percent to 12 incidents last year.

San Jose, California, which at a proportion of 38 percent has the largest AAPI population of the biggest U.S. cities experienced a 150 percent rise in anti-Asian hate crime, a little above the average increase, to 10 recorded incidents.

The same day as the Manhattan attack, a man of Asian descent was targeted with racist slurs and threatened with violence by a lumber-wielding man in a Brooklyn home depot store. The NYPD is making inquiries.

A day later, cellphone video emerged on TikTok of an incident on the New York City Subway in which a Black man and an Asian man are fighting. The Black man quickly gains the upper hand, raining down punches before choking his opponent unconscious.

Nobody intervenes during the violence and the Black man departs the train. It is not clear what led to the fight. Someone says towards the end of the video "he called him a [N-word]." The NYPD's Hate Crime Task Force is investigating and has appealed for information.

While we all know about these incidents through news reports, the perennial problem with hate crime data is that, like with a lot of other types of crime, many incidents go unreported.

Most if not all Asian-Americans have grim stories of racist abuse, but many are not filed with police. One potential explanation for New York City's prominence in the data is that Asians there are more likely to report hate incidents to police.

Stop AAPI Hate, a campaign group, recorded 3,795 incidents of hate from March 2020 to February 2021, the bulk of which are verbal harassment (68.1 percent) and shunning (20.5 percent) described as the "deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans."

The next largest category is physical violence, accounting for 11.1 percent of all anti-Asian hate incidents.

"The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face," the report said.

The increase in anti-Asian hate over the past year runs counter to an overall decrease shown in hate crime statistics. One explanation is obvious: Asians are increasingly targeted because of the COVID-19 pandemic that originated in China.

Asian victims of these hate incidents over the past year often report some sort of connection to COVID-19, usually in the form of verbal abuse, blaming them for the virus that has taken such a huge toll on people's lives not only in the U.S. but the world over.

New York City is hurting particularly badly. NYC Health data puts the confirmed death toll at more than 26,000 from the nearly 700,000 confirmed cases among the city's residents. Both figures are higher when probable cases and deaths are also included.

An inflammable mix of lockdown, high unemployment, the sickness and deaths of friends and family have permeated the lives of New York City's residents. The political rhetoric about China, and anger at Beijing's role, lit a match, and those disposed to racist hate blew the fire at Asians.

New Yorkers of Asian descent, appalled and upset by the images emerging from their city, are just pleading for humanity from their fellow residents. New York State Sen. John C. Liu gave an emotional assessment of the surveillance footage from the Manhattan attack.

"What's worse?" Liu asked in a tweet on Tuesday. "The attacker who stands by nonchalantly after brutalizing Asian woman, or the men inside who shut the door on her? For f*** sake, we are human beings!"

NYC protest against anti-Asian hate crime
Cameron Hunt and his father Calvin Hunt stand outside the 360 W 43rd Street building with signs of support in Midtown Manhattan on March 30, 2021 in New York City. On Monday morning, an unidentified man attacked a 65-year old woman knocking her to the ground and stomping on her head several times and made anti-Asian remarks. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images