Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Anti-Asian American Hate Crimes Spike During the Early Stages of the Covid-19 Pandemic”, by Han, S.; Riddell, J. R. and Piquero, A. R. (2022), in which authors carry out a study with police reports from different American cities to know how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected hate crimes committed against people of Asian origin in North America. 

Hate crimes are a different and special form of violence and aggression directed at a certain group of people because of their religion, race, gender…. 

Experts have proposed many reasons to explain why they occur. For example, some argue that critical events of local, national, or global significance could affect the frequency, severity, and demographic target of hate crimes. Traditionally, terrorist attacks, economic crisis, among other events, are believed to contribute to increases in hate crimes. 

They usually occur because there are a number of prejudices towards a group, which is discriminated against, resulting in a differentiation of society into two groups: insiders and outsiders. 

Recent cases of hate crimes in the United States have raised concerns about the risk of victimization of certain groups, such as Asian Americans. 

In March 2020 several members of an Asian-American family were stabbed by a man because he believed they were infecting people with coronavirus. In another event, a 65-year-old woman was beaten while receiving racial insults, in March 2021. 

The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was marked by accusations towards Asian people, even some people called the disease “the Chinese virus”. 

Experts believe that these circumstances favored the increase of hate crimes and aggressions against people of Asian origin. In addition, Asians have been viewed in the United States as permanent outsiders in society for several decades, which could amplify discriminatory attitudes.

According to the 2021 Anti-Asian Hate Crime Report, hate crimes against the Asian population in the United States increased, in 2020, 145% in the country’s 16 largest cities compared to 2019. In addition, a Covid-19 survey revealed that more than 30% of respondents had seen someone blaming the Asian population for the spread of the disease. 

This study examines whether the recent increase in hate crimes against this particular population group was related to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures that should have been taken to mitigate the effects of the disease (staying home, wearing masks, and so on). 

Data for this study were obtained from hate crime data from various police departments in San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., from January 2019 through March 2021. 

Two notable findings emerged. First, three out of four cities in the sample experienced a dramatic increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, while, hate crimes in general, trended downward. 

Additional empirical analysis also revealed that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased after March 2020 when labels such as “Chinese virus” were used in public by political officials. 

In addition to the prevailing discriminatory culture, labels blaming Asian Americans for the measures that were taken to curb the negative effects of Covid-19 are believed to have contributed to increased violence toward them. 

It is also important to note that the increase in hate crimes against this group of people was not sustained over time, but rather declined after the height of the pandemic. 

What is certain is that hate crimes often have a long history, and significant events are likely to trigger guilt labels toward a certain group of people. To address adverse effects, experts in the field and law enforcement should continue to study the effects of the pandemic on people’s well-being. 

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