EXPLORING HATE: WHO IS DRIVING CRIME AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS

Since the early days of the pandemic, Asian Americans have experienced a dramatic increase in incidents of targeted racism, discrimination and violent hate crimes. And while this is true all across the country, it is especially true here in New York City where reported hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased ninefold over the past year. Tonight, the Asian American Bar Association is hoping to explain why. As part of our Exploring Hate initiative on the and rise of antisemitism, racism and extremism in America, Board member Chris Kwok is here to discuss a report they recently published detailing the disturbing trend and the driving force behind it.

Aired on February 23, 2021.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

SINCE THE EARLY DAYS OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC ASIAN AMERICANS HAVE EXPERIENCED A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN TARGETED INSTANCES OF RACISM, DISCRIMINATION, AND VIOLENT HATE CRIMES.

THIS IS TRUE ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY, BUT ESPECIALLY HERE IN NEW YORK CITY WHERE REPORTED HATE CRIMES AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS HAVE INCREASED NINE-FOLD OVER THE PAST YORE.

THE ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK HAS RECENTLY RELEASED A REPORT DETAILING THE DISTURBING TREND AND PLACING MUCH OF THE BLAME ON THE RHETORIC OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP.

AS PART OF OUR EXPLORING HATE INITIATIVE, EXAMINING THE INTERSECTION OF ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM AND EXTREMISM IN AMERICA, WE ARE JOINED TONIGHT BY CHRIS KWOK, A BOARD MEMBER FOR THE ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK TO DISCUSS THE FINDINGS OF THEIR REPORT.

CHRIS, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME ON THE PROGRAM.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

SO, FROM YOUR REPORT, I JUST WANT TO GET A SENSE, ESPECIALLY FOR OUR AUDIENCE, WHEN DID WE START TO SEE A RISE IN HATE CRIMES?

WAS IT INSTAN STAIN-TANEOUS OR WAS THERE A BUILD THAT YOU SAW?

BUILD BEGINNING IN JANUARY OF 2020, CHINATOWN STARTED S SEEIN DECREASE IN JANUARY.

THE CHINATOWN WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN CHINA AND THE SHUT DOWN IN MARCH AND THE PRESS CONFERENCE, CHINA VIRUS, KUNG FLEW, CHINESE FLU, THAT TURNED UP THE HEAT WHITE HOT.

SO AS I MENTIONED IN THE INTRO, THE REPORT INDICATES THAT A LOT OF THIS CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP.

NOW, OF COURSE, YOU USED ONE OF THE INFLAMMATORY NICKNAMES HE HAD GIVEN THE CORONAVIRUS.

DOES THE BUILD, IF YOU WILL, OF HATE CRIMES, DOES THAT COINCIDE WITH THE AMOUNT OF RHETORIC THAT WAS COMING FROM THE WHITE HOUSE AT THE TIME, OR WITH THE INTENSITY OF IT?

IS THERE A CORRELATION THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO DRAW?

ABSOLUTELY.

JUST INTENSELY PERSONAL FEEL.

YOU FELT THAT IT TARGETED, A TARGET HAD BEEN PAINTED ON YOUR BACK.

SO IMMEDIATELY I WAS, LIKE, THINKING ABOUT SHOULD I GO OUT TO THE SUPERMARKET?

I AM NOT SURE IF I SHOULD GO OUT THERE, YOU KNOW.

AND, YOU KNOW, HONESTLY, SPEAKING AS AN ASIAN AMERICAN, AS A CHINESE-AMERICAN, I NEVER HAD TO WORRY ABOUT THAT.

I FELT BOTH SHOCKED, BUT THEN ALSO EMPATHY, I THINK, BECAUSE, I THINK, I HAVE BEEN READING -- I AM A SCHOLAR OF RACE.

I WORKED IN RACE RELATIONS.

YOU READ ABOUT AFRICAN AMERICANS DRIVING WHILE BLACK, WALKING -- ANYTHING, JOGGING WHILE BLACK.

OF COURSE.

THAT'S WRONG, BUT, LIKE, I NEVER PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED THAT INTERNALLY, YOU KNOW.

AND SO I FELT EMPATHY.

I ALSO FELT INTENSE FEAR MUCH I WAS, LIKE, WOW, THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE.

I HAD ALWAYS JUST INTELLECTUALLY PARISH RATED IT, BUT I PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED IT FOR THE FIRST TIME.

, OF COURSE.

AND, I MEAN, THAT'S GOING TO BRING UP SO MANY FEELINGS FOR ANYBODY.

BUT AGAIN, JUST FOR THE AUDIENCE'S UNDERSTANDING, WHAT EXACTLY IS IT THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT BECAUSE WE HAVE HEARD OF SOME HORRIFIC CRIMES, ASSAULTS, SOME THAT HAVE EVEN RESULTED IN DEATHS, UNFORTUNATELY.

BUT AT LEAST FROM WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON IN NEW YORK, WHAT KIND OF CRIMES, HATE CRIMES, ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

A LOT OF THEM ARE WHAT WE HAVE, YOU KNOW, TERMED HATE INCIDENTS.

THEY ARE VERBAL HARASSMENT.

THEY INVOLVE SPITTING.

YOU KNOW, SHUNNING.

LIKE, DON'T COME HERE, DON'T COME CLOSE TO ME.

SO 90% IS THAT.

AND THAT CREATES A REALLY TERRIBLE CLIMATE FOR ASIAN AMERICANS.

ABOUT 10% OF THEM ARE WHAT WE CALL HATE CRIMES.

THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, LIKE, YOU KNOW, ASSAULTS OR THINGS THAT BECOME PHYSICAL.

AND SO THAT -- THOSE HATE CRIMES, AS YOU SAID, NINE FOLD INCREASE FROM 2019 WHEN THERE WAS NO COVID-19 TO 2020 WHEN IT HIT SORT OF ALMOST, YOU KNOW, SORT OF IMMEDIATELY AND WITH, YOU KNOW, GREAT SURPRISE TO US.

NOW, ONE OF THE OTHER STORIES THAT WE HAVE ALSO FOLLOWED IS, OF COURSE, BECAUSE 2020 AMONGST EVERYTHING ELSE THAT WAS HAPPENING WAS ALSO A CENSUS YEAR AND THERE WAS A CONCERN ABOUT CERTAIN IMMIGRANT GROUPS NOT FEELING COMFORTABLE PERHAPS ANSWERING THE CENSUS.

NOT THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THAT ISSUE SPECIFICALLY RIGHT NOW, BUT I DO WONDER IF THERE IS PERHAPS AN UNDERREPORTING OF THE NUMBER OF INCIDENTS SIMPLY BECAUSE THE ASIAN COMMUNITY HAS A LARGE IMMIGRANT POPULATION AND SOME PEOPLE MIGHT NOT FEEL AS COMFORTABLE REPORTING CERTAIN CRIMES OR CERTAIN INCIDENTS LIKE YOU SAID TO THE POLICE?

THAT'S A HUGE PART OF IT.

SO THERE IS THAT.

THERE IS THE LANGUAGE DWOID.

THERE IS A FEELING THAT IT'S FWKEL GOING TO BE A WASTE OF TIME.

AN ENORMOUS COMMITMENT OF RESOURCES, I WILL HAVE TO SPEND 12 HOURS AT THE POLICE STATION AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN SO WHAT'S THE POINT, RIGHT.

BUT THEN I THINK BEYOND THAT IS FOR US AS AABANY AN INSTITUTION SORT OF FEELING THAT, HEY, ARE THE POLICE, ARE THE DISTRICT ATTORNEYS GOING TO TAKE THOSE THINGS SERIOUSLY AND HELP PEOPLE FEEL A SENSE OF SAFETY AGAIN, YOU KNOW, IN PONCE TO THOSE THINGS.

WE DON'T FEEL THAT'S THERE AS WELL.

WELL, DO WE KNOW WHERE THESE PARTICULAR INACCIDENTS ARE HAPPENING?

AGAIN THIS IS SOMETHING WE KNOW IS HAPPENING ACROSS THE COUNTRY, BUT NEW YORK BEING A VERY MULTICULTURAL CITY STILL HAS SOME VERY HOMOGENOUS NEIGHBORHOODS IN IT.

I'M WONDERING IF THIS IS A CITYWIDE THING OR HAPPENING IN CERTAIN AREAS.

THIS IS A CITYWIDE THING.

THIS IS NOT SORT OF RESTRICT TODAY THE CHINA TOWNS OR LIKE THE AREAS WITH LARGE ASIAN POPULATIONS.

JUST LIKE, YOU KNOW, ASIAN AMERICANS ARE PART OF THE FABRIC OF THE CITY, SO THEY'RE EVERYWHERE.

THE INCIDENTS ARE HAPPENING FROM THE UPPER EAST SIDE, UPPER MANHATTAN, QUEENS, BROOKLYN.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT'S NOT, YOU KNOW, SORT OF RESTRICTED TO ANY ONE GEOGRAPHICAL CHINATOWN.

NOW, LIKE SO MANY OTHER GROUPS, BEING ASIAN AMERICAN CASTS A VERY WIDE NET FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE, AND I WONDER IF THERE WERE SPECIFIC GROUPS, SPECIFIC NATIONALITIES WITHIN THE ASIAN AMERICAN, UNDER THE ASIAN AMERICAN UMBRELLA THAT WERE EXPERIENCED MORE HATE CRIMES.

LIKE, BASICALLY WERE THERE CERTAIN PEOPLE BEING TARGETED, OBVIOUSLY, UNFORTUNATELY, BUT FOR HOW THEY LOOKED?

ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

YOU KNOW, OVER 46, 47 GROUPS WITHIN THE ASIAN AMERICAN GROUP IS REALLY BIG.

GOING BACK TO 9/11, SOUTH ASIANS, SOUTH ASIANS AS PART OF THE ASIAN AMERICAN GROUP FACED A LOT OF, YOU KNOW, ANGER AND HATRED BECAUSE THEY WERE THOUGHT AND PERCEIVED TO BE MUSLIM.

SO SIX WERE KILLED.

FIRST PERP KILLED AFTER 9/11 SIKH.

MANY ARE MUSLIM.

MANY ARE NOT.

NOT THAT IT MATTERS, BUT THEY WERE PERCEIVED TO BE.

POST-9/11 AND AGAIN IN 2016 A LOT OF UPSURGE IN HATE DIRECTED TOWARDS THEM BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY LOOKED LIKE AND WHO THEY WERE PERCEIVED TO BE.

EAST ASIANS DIDN'T SUFFER THAT IN THE 9/11 ERA, RIGHT.

BUT WITH THE COVID-19, IT'S PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE ME, EAST ASIANS, YOU KNOW, PARTICULARLY -- OR THOUGHT TO BE EAST ASIAN, THOSE ARE THE TARGETS IN THIS WAVE.

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CONCERNS, I GUESS, FOR -- I MEAN, WE ARE BEGINNING TO TALK ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD, ALTHOUGH NOBODY SEEMS TO NE WHAT EXACTLY THAT EVEN LOOKS LIKE, BUT WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CONCERNS AS WE MOVE INTO THIS SO-CALLED POST-PANDEMIC WORLD WITH SO MUCH NOT ONLY MISUNDERSTANDING BUT, OF COURSE, VIOLENT OUTBURSTS THAT HAVE BEEN INCREASING?

YOU KNOW, I MEAN, AMERICA, AS A COUNTRY, EVERY COUNTRY HAS EXPERIENCED COVID-19 KIND OF AS A STRESS TEST, I THINK, ON THEIR SORT OF SOCIAL FABRIC, AND I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING WE'VE TALKED ABOUT, EVEN THOUGH WE LOCATE THE MOST, NOW, RECENT UPSURGE WITH TRUMP, IT'S BEEN IN AMERICA FROM ITS FOUNDING.

THE STRUCTURAL RACISM.

WHICH BLM TALKED ABOUT, ITS MANIFESTATIONS ARE MANY FOLD AND ANTI-ASIA BE DISCRIMINATION AND RACISM ARE A PART.

SOME PEOPLE TALK ABOUT WE CAN'T TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE ARE FOCUSED ON BLM.

I SAY TO THEM, IT'S THE SAME THING.

WE ARE FIGHTING THE SAME THING.

WE ARE FIGHTING THE SAME ENEMY.

WE DON'T NEED TO SAY WE CAN'T TALK ABOUT THIS BECAUSE WE ARE FOCUSED ON BLM.

STRUCK CHAURL RACISM IS MANY MANIFESTATIONS.

COMING OUT OF THIS IS THE MINORITY GROUPS DON'T FIGHT EACH OTHER BECAUSE THAT DISTRACTS FROM THE OVERALL STRUCTURE.

THAT'S MY SORT OF, LIKE -- THAT'S OUR SORT OF CALL TO PROVIDE SAFETY.

I THINK THAT'S THE IMMEDIATE CONCERN, THAT PEOPLE FEEL SAFE.

CAN I GO TO THE SUPERMARKET?

CAN I GO TO WORK?

CAN I WALK DOWN THE STREET, RIGHT?

WE THINK THERE IS A ROLE FOR THE POLICE.

THERE IS SOME CONTROVERSY WITHIN THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY ABOUT THAT, THAT, YOU KNOW, THAT IT'S A RACIST INSTITUTION, WE SHOULDN'T FURTHER FUND IT.

WE AGREE THERE NEEDS TO BE REFORM.

WE ALSO THINK SAFETY IS IMPORTANT FOR OUR ELDERS, FOR R WOMEN BECAUSE ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN ARE 2 1/2 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE HARASSED THAN ASIAN AMERICAN MEN.

ELDERLY PEOPLE, ELDERLY, YOU KNOW, ELDERLY ASIAN AMERICANS AND FEMALE ASIAN AMERICANS ARE FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE THE SUBJECT OF THESE ATTACKS.

SO WE NEED TO SORT OF GET THAT OUT THERE, MAKE SURE THEY'RE SAFE AND THEN WE NEED TO TACKLE I THINK THE BIGGER PROBLEMS, STRUCTURAL ISSUES, STRUCTURAL RACISM IN AMERICA.

OF COURSE.

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SAFETY, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS BEEN TALKED ABOUT PERHAPS IS SOME SORT OF A VOLUNTEER BUDDY SYSTEM, PARTICULARLY FOR ELDER ASIAN AMERICANS, SO THAT THEY CAN GO OUT AND FEEL LIKE THEY'RE SAFE AND TO HAVE PERHAPS, I DON'T KNOW, A YOUNGER PERSON OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT WITH THEM.

IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU SEE AS, LIKE, A GOOD THING?

BECAUSE AT LEAST ON THE SURFACE IT SOUNDS LIKE A COMMUNITY, YOU KNOW, ENGAGEMENT, LET'S GET TOGETHER AND HELP, BUT PERHAPS COULD THAT ALSO, I DON'T KNOW, HAVE AN UNFORESEEN NEGATIVE EFFECT?

YEAH.

I THINK THAT AS A COMMUNITY SORT OF, LIKE, PROJECT IT SOUNDS GOOD AND, YOU KNOW, CERTAINLY ENCOURAGE, LIKE, SORT OF THAT.

BUT IF IT ENKURNGS SORT OF CONFRONTATIONS AND LEADS TO THESE THINGS, THAT'S SOMETHING WE NEED TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT AND, I MEAN, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT HOW WE ENGAGE COMMUNITY SAFETY.

I MEAN, PART OF THAT IS THAT I THINK THAT EVERYONE IS FEELING A LOT OF STRESS AND, YOU KNOW, AS A RESULT OF COVID-19.

EVERYONE IS PUSHED TO THEIR LIMITS.

FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND I THAT WE CAN WORK AT HOME WE ARE LUCKY.

MANY PEOPLE ARE FAR MORE STRESSED.

MAYBE WE ARE SEEING THOSE THINGS PLAY OUT ON THE STREETS, PEOPLE LASHING OUT.

MAYBE THEY ARE LASHING OUT AT PEOPLE THAT LOOK ASIAN BECAUSE THEY FEEL LIKE YOU BROUGHT IT HERE.

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

WE TALK ABOUT AID, WE TALK ABOUT THAT PACKAGE, WE TALK ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT BEING EXTENDED, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT -- THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT WE CAN PUT INTO SOCIETY TO MEND THOSE SORT OF, LIKE, BRINKS THAT ARE PUSHING PEOPLE TO THE LIMIT.

THAT'S WHAT I THINK WE ARE SEEING.

THEY ARE LASHING OUT AT EACH OTHER ON THE STREET BECAUSE THERE IS ALL THIS PRESSURE.

SO, I MEAN, I SEE IT AND WEI WAT TO PROTECT ASIAN AMERICANS BUT WE WANT TO MAKE SURE IT'S SAFE FOR EVERYONE, RIGHT.

WE WANT A GOOD SOCIETY WHERE PEOPLE ARE TAKING CARE OF THE ELDERLY, VULNERABLE ARE NOT PUSHED TO HOMELESSNESS.

IF WE DON'T CARE OF THOSE THINGS RIGHT AWAY, I THINK PEOPLE ARE BEING PUSHED CLOSE TO BREAKING POINT.

CHRIS KWOK, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON 'METROFOCUS.'

CHRIS KWOK IS A BOARD MEMBER FOR THE ASIAN AMERICAN BOARD ASSOCIATION OF -- EXCUSE ME, BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

OF COURSE, FOR GIVING SOME CONTEXT AND A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF AT LEAST THESE UNFORTUNATE INCIDENTS THAT WE ARE SEEING HAPPENING.

OF COURSE, PERHAPS WHAT COULD BE THE ROAD BACK FROM SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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