Stop Blaming Black People for Anti-Asian Hate | Opinion

In the wake of last week's horrific mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight dead, six of them Asian women, many have been speaking up about a longer-term trend: the rising spate of violence and harassment Asian Americans have experienced over the past year and a half. Asian Americans have been justifiably furious at the rising violence—the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate says it got 2,800 reports of hate crime attacks against Asian-Americans last year—and the Atlanta massacre sharpened the crescendo against this increasing wave of violence.

All good people should be furious at this spate of attacks. But what we shouldn't do is use it as an excuse to blame Black people, as some have done.

In OpEds and articles critical of the media's coverage of the crimes, some have taken to insisting that the lion's share of the anti-Asian attacks have been perpetrated by African-American youths, based on a few widely-circulated videos on social media. These articles argue that the media has engaged in subterfuge to protect the racial identity of the assailants. "It is simply a fact that the demographic disproportionately most likely to commit hate crimes is African-American," as Andrew Sullivan put it.

It is simply a fact that the demographic disproportionately most likely to commit hate crimes is African-American. I linked to the source. I cited white offenders as well.

— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) March 21, 2021

The problem is, this just isn't true.

One recent study has provided the justification for the claim that non-whites where the majority of perpetrators of Asian-American hate crimes. The study was published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice in January, and it was based on data from 1992-2014. But the study clearly indicates that the identities of the perpetrators of hate crimes against Asian-Americans are overwhelmingly white: 74.6 percent of these crimes are committed by white assailants. Importantly, according to the methodology in the study, there is a ~20-fold difference in the cases of hate crimes reported against African-Americans (5,463) compared to Asian-Americans (329), which explains the large difference in percentage of non-white assailants by race.

It's true that the data does not cover the current spate of attacks. But it seems unlikely that a drastic change in the profile of the perpetrators of Asian American violence would occur without some significant external impetus.

Some have suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic provided just such an external impetus. And yet, the person who insisted on associating the virus with China, allowing the wrong and dangerous association to spill over to Chinese Americans, was President Donald Trump, not exactly a hero among African American youths.

And just as there's no evidence to suggest that the majority of these attacks are being perpetrated by Black Americans, there's no evidence to that other claim one hears a lot, that the lack of initial attention to these crimes reveals that the mainstream media is not reporting these incidents in order to protect the racial identity of the attackers.

This conspiracy theory proposes that the media is protecting African American men, an ironic claim to say the least; if the media were doing such a thing, it would be the first time in history. Historically, media representations of African American males—especially young men—have disproportionately portrayed them as criminals, to disastrous effect.

Moreover, the idea that African Americans are being protected in this instance as perpetrators doesn't pass the red face test. Clearly, a few African Americans have engaged in this hateful behavior; I've seen the same videos everyone else has. But the identities of the assailants have been revealed; by what measure can we say they're being protected by the media?

Not only has the media not protected these assailants, but these videos of Black youths maliciously assaulting Asian-American elders have become the face of #AsianHate, giving the false impression, taken up by writers in these articles, that they are representative of the wave of violence, without any real evidence to back it up.

Stop Asian Hate
People march through a neighborhood to protest against anti-Asian violence on March 18, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

So indelible is the view that the wave is being powered by young Black men that even other videos have failed to make an impact. These have included the recent video in which an elderly Asian-American woman fought off an attacker in San Francisco; a post by Kane Ma, a former Professional Basketball Player, about being attacked by three white men who months later screamed "white people have power" into his face; and the numerous other white people caught on tape harassing and assaulting Asian Americans. All of these have made no impact on the narrative.

In fact, it's the one thing these articles have gotten right: Assigning blame incorrectly to a particular group doesn't actually protect anyone, but rather reinforces barriers that lead to greater mistrust and disputes.

One thing that has become apparent is that there is a bi-directional suspicion between many Asian Americans and some African Americans. Whether this is driven by co-habitation in certain communities in Los Angeles or New York City or by pre-conceived notions that exist due to stereotypical narratives, none of this should diminish the strong bonds Asian Americans and African Americans have shared historically.

In 2021, many issues are designed to create a racial wedge between Asian and African Americans: lawsuits about college admissions; grifts by conservatives to justify African American poverty levels; reminders of distrust and anger. And yet, the shared struggle persists: Per the Pew Research Center, the number of Black and Asian Americans who reported experiencing discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic was the same: four out of 10.

Asian-Americans want to feel the same support that they gave the Black Lives Matter movement. And it's a reasonable request in this circumstance.

It's also why the truth matters more than ever.

Craig Harvey is a working scientist who believes in the good side of most people and admits to performing type 3 errors on occasion.

The views in this article are the writer's own.