The shootings in Georgia earlier this week that left eight people dead have refocused the country’s attention on hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
A House committee held hearings on discrimination against Asian Americans today. California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu, who was born in Taiwan, fired back at Republican lawmakers for their rhetoric during the pandemic.
“Stop using racist terms like ‘kung flu,’ ‘Wuhan virus’ or other ethnic identifiers in describing this virus. I am not a virus. And when you say things like that, it hurts the Asian American community. Whatever political points you think you are scoring by using ethnic identifiers and describing this virus, you're harming Americans who happen to be of Asian descent,” Lieu said.
Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of the group Stop AAPI Hate, testified during the House hearing earlier today. She tells KCRW that the federal government needs to give more resources to local programs.
She highlights one program here called LA Versus Hate. “You can call 211 or report online a hate incident you've experienced. And it's not only for the Asian American community, but any marginalized community that feels that they have experienced discrimination. That includes our African American and Latinx communities, Jewish communities, as well as LGBTQ.”
She says when a report is taken, case management and direct support are offered, and this is a model the rest of the country should follow.
Kulkarni adds that a stronger civil rights enforcement infrastructure is needed. “Ninety percent of the incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate do not involve an underlying crime whatsoever. So while we have a strong system for hate crimes enforcement, where law enforcement reports to FBI, we don't have the same thing on the civil side.”
The last measure needed, she says, is strengthening civil rights laws. “Not every state in our union has protections for its citizens. And so there's a lot that can be done on that level as well.”
Blake Chow, deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department and its AAPI community liaison, tells KCRW there was a 114% increase in hate crime incidents in 2020, and many occurrences are going underreported right now. He says the increase probably has to do with anecdotal stories and social media posts about the connection between COVID and China.
“We don't have any evidence of any organized hate groups committing these crimes,” Chow says. “But we do have individuals that I think are motivated by things that they see on social media, or things that they hear or they talk about, and then they act out on what they see when they encounter an individual that is AAPI.”