Most white Americans are racist towards Asians

Anti-Asian Racism: The Other Deadly Virus

Tuesday, late afternoon in Cherokee County, around 60 kilometers north of Georgia's capital Atlanta: A 21-year-old American shot eight people in three massage parlors. Six of the victims are women of Asian origin. The killings are putting the Asian community in the United States on high alert.

And that is no accident. Especially during the corona pandemic, Asian-Americans were increasingly the target of racist attacks in the USA. Because of their supposed origins, they are seen as potentially contagious, hostile or attacked.

Since the beginning of 2020, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSUSB), more than twice as many crimes against people read or perceived in Asia have been reported in US metropolises as in 2019. In big cities like Los Angeles or New York, the judicial authorities even registered an increase in racist attacks of around 150 percent.

Significant increase

As the CSUSB notes, this significant increase ran parallel to the increase in reports on the "China virus" - a word that ex-US President Donald Trump used to distinguish himself. The current US leadership condemns such "hate crimes" in which individual groups are made scapegoats, but the trend is still increasing.

The organization "Stop AAPI Hate" published a report on Tuesday in which it speaks of almost 3,800 attacks since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 500 of them this year. Almost 70 percent of those affected are women. In the report you can read about insults, dejected passers-by and people who are spat at. AAPI lawyers say that what is reported to them is only a fraction of what is actually happening.

The hashtag #IAmNotAVirus has been trending on social media for months. For just as long, people in the USA have been protesting against racist attacks on US citizens of Asian descent.

The role of the media

The problem is by no means confined to the United States. In the German and French-speaking countries, those affected report using the hashtags #IchBinKeinVirus and #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus from their experiences. The numbers rose in Austria too, especially at the beginning of the pandemic: In the racism report of the civil courage and anti-racism work (Zara) association, there are reports of racist remarks and attacks in public spaces, in schools and also in traditional as well as social media.

"We saw the connection between reporting and assaults mainly in our increased case reports in February and March 2020," says Caroline Kerschbaumer, managing director of Zara. "The media have a great responsibility, especially when it comes to issues that are so sensitive."

Racist clichés were repeatedly used in German-language media, lifestyles or eating habits were linked to the coronavirus or people with masks read in Asia were shown to illustrate the pandemic - even when it came to the number of infections in Europe.

The network for Asian-German Perspectives Korientation e.V. has been documenting racism in the media since the beginning of the pandemic. The last example is from February 25th, when a racist incident involving the K-pop band BTS caused a stir. A German radio presenter compared the musicians with the corona virus and hoped for a vaccination against them.

Lack of awareness

In this case, the focus of criticism of racism against the media and their reporting was often placed on the critics, and the outcry in the community was presented as exaggerated. Those affected by attacks in everyday life also report a lack of intervention by outsiders. Zara reported that most incidents of anti-Asian racism at the start of the pandemic were reported by those affected - suggesting a lack of awareness in majority society and increasing pressure on those affected.

In the discussion of the Atlanta attack, there was much speculation about the motive, whether it was racist or sexist - or whether the perpetrator was just "having a bad day," as a police spokesman actually said. The suspect stated that massage parlors - which were run by women of Asian origin - felt as a "temptation" that he wanted to eliminate.

Although he denied a racist motive, he is picking up on a common stereotype of hypersexualization and sexual availability towards (South) East Asian women in Western societies - and thus makes it clear: anti-Asian racism has not only existed since Corona. (Anika Đặng, Manuela Honsig-Erlenburg, Noura Maan, March 21, 2021)