TORRANCE, Calif. — Researchers have collected 832 incidents of discrimination and harassment against Asian Americans in 34 counties across California in just over three months, an average of 10 incidents per day. Those researchers believe that this is just the “tip of the iceberg” of attacks against Asian Americans during the pandemic. They said that encouragement for those attacks comes from the highest levels of government, and they want the state to invest in tools to proactively address anti-Asian American discrimination.
“The connection between anti-China rhetoric and anti-Asian hate has been confirmed by the data we’ve collected through our reporting center,” said Cynthia Choi, a co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action. “The President of the United States, his continued use of racist terms and continued scapegoating of China — really as a deflection of the failures of this administration — is leading to harm Asian Americans, including children and seniors.”
The report comes from Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center founded by the Asian Pacific Policy Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the San Francisco State University Asian American Studies Department. Stop AAPI Hate began collecting reports of anti-Asian hatred in March, as the pandemic began to take hold in the United States, receiving more than 1,800 reports by mid-June.
In its most recent report, Stop AAPI Hate has found that more than 40 percent of discrimination reports in California began at a person’s workplace, and about 10 percent of reported cases included physical assaults.
The report includes a series of examples of the harassment their respondents experienced, including racial slurs, physical assaults, thrown objects, and kicked animals, as well as insidious and incendiary comments in the workplace and online.
Donalene Ferrer, of San Diego, explained that she and her family were walking their dogs in Oceanside, in early April, when they were accosted by a family driving past in a car.
“All of us had our masks on, and this car drives by, and someone yells out, ‘You started the corona,’” Ferrer said. As she and her family turned home, they realized the offending car was parked only a few doors away.
Ferrer couldn’t hold back. She told the family that accosted them — a man, a woman, two young kids, and a baby — that she is a nurse, that her father is a United States military veteran, and that they shouldn’t be teaching their kids racism.
“The girl started yelling at my daughter, saying obscenities…we ended up walking away, and it’s disheartening because they live three doors down from my mom’s house,” Ferrer said.
Democratic California Assembly members David Chiu, representing the 17th Assembly District in San Francisco, and Al Muratsuchi, of the 66th Assembly District in Torrance, also participated in the report’s presentation.
Reports of racism hit close to home in Muratsuchi’s district. In early June, multiple videos filmed in Torrance’s Wilson Park showed a woman making racist verbal attacks against another woman exercising, as well as a man out with his children. Both victims of those attacks were Asian American.
Torrance Police later connected those attacks with a previous video in which the same woman, identified by police as Lena Hernandez, attacked another Asian American woman at Del Amo Fashion Center. The Torrance City Attorney’s Office is expected to announce whether charges will be filed against Hernandez this week, Muratsuchi said.
In an interview, Muratsuchi says that he also spoke with another constituent who was victimized in June, the owner of a Japanese cookware shop who had a letter threatening a bombing taped to his store’s front door.
“This is the first experience he has had with discrimination, living in the U.S.,” Muratsuchi says. “He didn’t talk about the politics of the pandemic or the president. He was just concerned for his safety and the safety of his employees.”
Chiu thanked Gov. Gavin Newsom for his support in denouncing Asian Pacific Islander racism but encouraged the governor to give requests to develop a “Racial Bias Task Force” serious considerations within the recently-adopted state budget.
“We are not going to make it through this time period if we’re not all working together,” Chiu said. “It takes partnerships within our API community. It also takes broader partnerships; we know that there is structural racism impacting so many of our communities around the state.
“For all of us, if you come after any of us, we’re going to stand together and make sure that all of our communities are protected,” Chiu said.