The Rise of Asian-American Attacks During the COVID-19 Pandemic


By: Noah Weinberg and Sean Kook


Date Published: 3/14/21

This is an ongoing Vistory. Graphics will be updated when new information is gathered.

If you would like to contribute to this data story, please send the event, its date, and location to vistorydata@gmail.com.

Map Last Updated: March 18th


Since the start of COVID-19, Asian-Americans throughout the nation have been the most inclined scapegoat for the spread of the virus. To first understand why, we must go back to December 2019 in Wuhan, China, where the first case of the virus was reported.

Although the source of the first transmission of the zoonotic pathogen is still unknown, people have hypothesized that it stemmed from a food market, bats, pangolins, and other caged wildlife. What we do know, though, is that COVID-19 began spreading like wildfire across the capital of Hubei Province and then, the rest of the world.

Just a month later, on January 21st, the U.S. reported its first case in Seattle, and soon would have a hard time keeping track of all the cases emerging in every corner of American neighborhoods.

As misinformation, lies, and rumors run rampant in the US, many viewed Asian-Americans as the culprits, somehow to blame for the terrible disease that spread quickly in the states and the world. Embracing these falsehoods, some Americans began tormenting, verbally abusing, assaulting, and in some cases even killing Asian-Americans, none of whom had any ties to the disease. Some argue that much of the xenophobic sentiment originated the moment President Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and “Kung-Flu” as the virus spread throughout the 50 states. According to an Ipsos survey from April 2020, more than 30% of Americans have witnessed someone blaming people of Asian descent for COVID-19.

Starting as early as January of 2020, these targeted harassments have continued to take place throughout the nation. The Stop AAPI Hate organization’s records show 2,808 incidents of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia from March through December of 2020. The graph below shows an earlier report from Stop AAPI Hate with bars separated by the types of attacks that people reported to the group.

Hover over points to view information about the specific incident.

According to the Census Bureau, California has 4.9 million Asian residents, or about a third of the United States’ 15 million Asian-Americans. The state with the most attacks though has by far been California.

While the number of reported attacks are far from all of the actual incidents, the anti-Asian hate episodes above represent the types of attacks that have been occurring throughout the state of California.

Below is a video of Vichar Ratanapakdee’s assault. Disclaimer: the following video contains graphic and violent imagery.

On February 23rd, 2021, an elderly Asian man was ambushed and robbed by three men in a Bay Area laundromat.

Throughout the month of January 2021, several teens terrorized Haijun Si’s home by throwing rocks, pounding the door, and yelling racial slurs against the man’s family.

Eric Lawson, Ratanapakdee’s son-in-law said: “This was driven by hate. There’s less people on the street, definitely less Asian people. I’m in Chinatown a lot and it’s been dead… It was starting to pick back up and then … this happened.”

While there have been people terrorizing members of the Asian community, many have signed up to accompany older Asian Americans in Oakland, CA’s Chinatown. Compassion in Oakland, an organization started to support and protect the city’s Chinatown, has garnered thousands of volunteers to walk alongside elderly Asian-Americans who feel unsafe on the streets of their community. The movement’s founder Jacob Azevedo said “this is important because this community just needs healing. There’s a lot of racial tensions going on.”

COVID-19 cases are on the decline with vaccinations, and we can only hope that the horrific racial attacks will soon take the same route.

If you want us to add new data points with events to the map, please contact vistorydata@gmail.com and we will plot them as soon as possible. We are aiming to create a large database that anyone can share to learn more and shine a light on this issue.


Sources:

A Collection of news websites and reports were used for the map of California.

"Attacks against Asian Americans are on the rise. Here's what you can do"
"Where Are We in Finding the Coronavirus’s Origin?"
"First case of Coronavirus found"
"A Timeline of COVID-19 Developments"
"Covid-19 Fueling Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia Worldwide"
"Coronavirus: What attacks on Asians reveal about American identity"
"San Diego’s Spike In Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Mirrors National Trend"
"Hundreds of people are volunteering to escort elderly Asian Americans to help keep them safe"
"Family of Thai immigrant, 84, says fatal attack 'was driven by hate'"