top of page

HATE is a Virus


Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise in the United States of America


America—despite labelling itself as a land of the free and a cultural melting pot—has a racism problem. This is clearly evident during this pandemic as two movements emerge following the death of George Floyd and a string of Anti-Asian hate crimes—Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Stop Asian Hate.

     CRISIS-DRIVEN HATE Recently, a 1956 video of a high school exchange student’s debate on prejudice circulated on social media. The forum discussion started with a simple question: What is prejudice? “When a person loses track of the dignity of the human soul and begins to judge others not on the basis of their being persons, but on the basis of race, creed, economic status—that is prejudice,” said the Philippine representative Raul Contreras. More than 60 years after the debate, hate crimes are still prevalent, especially in the United States. According to the 2019 Hate Crime Statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 7,314 hate crimes were recorded in 2019—the highest recorded figure in more than a decade, nearing the 7,783 recorded in 2008. According to civil rights groups, former US President Barack Obama’s election in November of 2008 provoked a rise in hate crimes.

     This was compared to the rise of anti-Islamic hate crimes following the 9/11 terrorist attacks coordinated by al-Qaeda, which targeted the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001. Four passenger airplanes bound for California were hijacked by 19 terrorists. Two of which crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan—within two hours, both towers collapsed.

     The third airplane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, while the final airplane crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania.

     The final plane was headed for Washington, D.C., but the plan was foiled after the plane crew and passengers attempted to regain control. In total, the attacks resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and over 25,000 injuries. In the eight to nine weeks following 9/11, increased attacks directed against Muslims or “those perceived to be Muslim” were reported.

     These were revealed in some studies such as “The Impact of the Terrorist Attacks of 9/11 on Anti Islamic Hate Crime” by Bryan Byers and James Jones and “Islamophobia in America?: September 11 and Islamophobic Hate Crime” by Jeffrey Kaplan. Kaplan’s study, in particular, which compared the post 9/11 hate crime spike to past incidents (treatment towards Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Red Scare of the ‘50s) seemed to affirm a trend—spikes in hate crimes often follow major crises whose alleged or perceived perpetrators belong to minority groups. In 1941, around 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry lived in the United States at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

     Two-thirds of this demographic group are full American citizens, born and raised in the US. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was a rise in anti-Japanese fear, suspicion, and overall negative sentiment that led to the signing of Executive Order 9066 by then President Franklin Roosevelt. EO 9066 forced all Japanese Americans into internment camps, leaving behind their homes and properties.

     “National security” was cited as a justification for this controversial policy. Acute consequences of this policy include a total of US$400-million in property loss for camp residents. In 1948, the US Congress provided US$38 million in reparations.

     But until today, Japanese Americans still feel emotional repercussions especially every December 7—the day of the attack. While crises often motivate huge numbers of prejudice-driven crimes, another major factor is political influence.

     Former US President Donald Trump began his 2016 presidential campaign in June 2015. Between 2015 and 2016, Islamophobia and hate crimes targeting Muslims spiked according to a Pew Research Center study.

     The figure even surpassed post-September 11 records in 2001. Anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by 67% from 2014 (154 incidents) to 2015 (257 incidents).

     The following year, there were 307 reported incidents, an increase of 19%. Trump falsely alleged during his campaign rally in November 2015 that, as he watched the World Trade Center collapse in New Jersey, he saw thousands of people cheering.

     The following day, This Week host George Stephanopoulos asked if Trump misspoke during the rally, saying that while the rumors have circulated the internet, the police report that no such thing happened. “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations.

     They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down,” Trump insisted. When Trump became President, one of his first acts was signing Executive Order 13769 or the “Muslim Ban.” EO 13769 was entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The 90-day visa ban targeted people coming from seven countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Following the directive, experts claim that “the order’s unintended consequences will make the threat worse.” Terrorist attacks in the US following 9/11 were not carried out by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from the seven target countries.


     The COVID-19 pandemic once again pulls into focus the United States’ deep-seated racism issue. Data gathered by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, which was shared in a Voice of America (VOA) news article, shows an almost 150% increase in antiAsian American hate crimes in 2020. Data reported was pooled from 16 of America’s most populous cities. Much like the growing Islamophobia following the beginning of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015, many Asian American rights advocates believe the spike in racially-charged attacks targeting Asians are largely due to Trump’s rhetoric.

     The former US President has, in numerous instances, blamed China for the pandemic, saying that the virus could have been stopped at the source, in Wuhan, China, where the COVID-19 virus was first reported as a small outbreak. On many occasions, Trump also called the disease the “kung flu” and the “China virus,” adding fuel to an already volatile flame. “I think the political leadership under Trump really put a target on the backs of people perceived to be Chinese,” said Chris Kwok, an Asian American Bar Association of New York board member. “It’s Sinophobia.” 


       Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021, following Joseph Biden’s win in the recent elections to be the 46th President of the United States. On March 17, 2021, White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki said in a press briefing that there is “no question” that the Trump administration’s “damaging rhetoric” has contributed to “inaccurate and unfair perceptions” about the Asian American community, thus escalating threats against the community.

      But Chinese Americans are not the only ones affected by attacks and racist sentiments. Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Hate, a reporting center dedicated to tracking and responding to hate incidents directed towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, revealed that out of the attacks that occurred between March to December 2020, 7% of the victims were Filipinos.

      Almost half or 41% are Chinese, 15% are Koreans, Vietnamese account for 8%, while the remaining 29% are other ethnicities. One of the most recent Filipino victims of a hate crime was a 65-year-old Filipino immigrant in New York. Vilma Kari was on her way to church in Manhattan when a man kicked her in the stomach, unprovoked.

      She fell and he repeatedly kicked her in the head, yelling obscenities. He was also reported to say, “You don’t belong here.” The violent scene happened in broad daylight, yet no one tried to stop the attacker.

      Three men were watching from the lobby of a nearby apartment building. But instead of helping, the security guard closed the front door. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted his response to the incident, saying the incident “will influence Philippine foreign policy.” In a separate tweet, Locsin reacted to the video of the hate crime, “That’s not heartbreaking, that’s enraging.

      And what goes around and kicks a lot will come around and get kicked back a lot.” In a radio interview, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said that the government is “very concerned” about the rise in anti-Asian hate attacks. “I sent a note verbale to the [US] State Department and I wrote letters to some senators. I wrote to them calling their attention. Medyo matindi na ‘yung mga ginagawa dito sa mga Asian Americans dito sa America (the attacks on Asian Americans in America is quite disturbing),” he said. “We told them that Asian Americans may be attacked because the former government used to refer to COVID-19 as the ‘China virus’,” Romualdez said, referring to Trump. Prior to this incident, the Philippine Embassy in Washington urged Filipinos to “use extreme caution in view of these incidents.” Should they experience attacks, they are advised to immediately call 911 and report the crime.

      The Embassy further called on US authorities to act to further ensure the protection of Asians, including Filipinos. Early in February, a 61-year-old Filipino man was also attacked in New York. Noel Quintana was slashed in the face with a box cutter by a fellow subway passenger. He was on his way to work, when during the commute, the suspect repeatedly kicked his backpack. Quintana asked the man to stop and that was when the assault occurred. 

      Apart from the Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Romualdez, Sen. Manuel Pacquiao also released a statement early April via social media. The boxer-cum-politician issued a challenge to the attackers—“#Stop Asian Hate Stop attacking Asians who can’t defend themselves! Fight me instead.”

      The photo, which was posted in multiple languages, featured the victims of anti-Asian hate crimes in the background. Pacquiao’s post was captioned—“We have one color in our Blood! Stop discriminating. LOVE AND PEACE TO EVERYONE!! #StopAsianHate” Reacting to Pacquiao’s challenge, Sen. Win Gatchalian tweeted that “‘Yan ang dapat panglaban natin sa mga Asian haters sa Amerika.

      Mga demonyo na ‘yon, mga racist sa Amerika (That’s who we should choose to fight Asian haters in America.

      Those racists in America are demons).” In a tweet, Senator Risa Hontiveros also expressed her concern for the Filipino Americans who are experiencing racial discrimination. “My heart goes out to {Asian Americans, especially Filipino Americans] who experience this horrific level of cruelty,” Hontiveros said. “Ang sakit sa puso. Sa mga kababayan natin sa Amerika, ingat kayo at mag-reach out kung kailangan niyo ng anumang tulong mula sa amin. (This is heart-wrenching. To our fellow Filipinos in America, stay safe and reach out to us if you need any kind of help.)” WHAT DO WE DO NOW? This is the biggest question. Is the final solution, to hide and be constantly wary of everyone? What else can Asian Americans do? Following the 9/11 attacks, a city-by-city analysis using the data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program reported that anti-Muslim hate crime was virtually non-existent in New York City and Washington D.C. “It is suggested that public calls for calm and tolerance and in-group/out-group dynamics may have impacted anti Islamic hate crime frequency, thus accounting for rises and reductions in this form of bias crime over time,” Byers and Jones’ study says. The height of the anti-Muslim hate crimes following 9/11 lasted for nine weeks. Afterwards, the number fell drastically.

      Much like the study of Byers and Jones, Kaplan explains that the abrupt end to the hate crimes were due to the following factors: “Leadership (effective intervention by the US President), decisive law enforcement intervention (federal and local), grassroots outreach to Muslims (religious, educational, and civic groups), and lastly, moral ambiguity in the rapid dissolution of American consensus over the War on Terror following the invasion of Iraq.”

      There is a lot that people can do to deter the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. Celebrities are being vocal and people are taking to the streets to protest and condemn the violence. As mentioned, the voice of the nation’s leader can tremendously affect the people’s views.

      And on March 30, 2021, Biden released a statement that the US government promises additional actions to respond to the anti-Asian violence, xenophobia, and bias. “Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling that their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake.

      They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed. They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed,” Biden lamented. “We’re hearing all across the country that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. And it’s often met with silence.

      That’s been true throughout history, but that has to change—because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.” If you or your Asian relatives in the United States experience a hate crime, report the incident to respective local and federal law enforcement agencies. You may also report hate incidents online at

bottom of page