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Stopping hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans

This editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

A 91-year-old man shoved to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown. A dead cat left at a family-run butcher shop in Sacramento. A 51-year-old teacher's aide beaten with his own cane in Rosemead. A fire and vandalism at a Buddhist temple in Little Tokyo. The harassment of an immigrant family in Ladera Ranch. A Sacramento high school teacher making disparaging slant-eyed gestures during a Zoom call.

These horrific incidents all occurred within the last month. And the trend isn't limited to California. Attacks on Asian Americans have drawn an outcry in New York City, as well. Voice of America has documented similar surges in hate crimes in Boston, Seattle and other cities.

The increase in attacks over the past year has no single cause. But there can be no doubt that former President Donald Trump's invective against immigrants and against China — he referred to the coronavirus as "the Chinese virus" and COVID-19 as "kung flu" — contributed to an atmosphere of xenophobia and scapegoating. It is only the latest in a long and ugly history of hostility toward Asians, marked by such outrages as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing minority group in America, and they have become pivotal voters in some elections. The community is characterized by staggering diversity.

One of the few things that unites this group's members, sadly, is being the target of hate crimes. The anti-Asian violence does not discriminate by national origin; for example, a 27-year-old Korean American was assaulted last month in Koreatown by two men who allegedly accused him of carrying COVID-19 and told him to "go back to China."

And there is more hate than we know. Hate crimes have been underreported by Asian Americans because many have limited English ability or do not trust the police.

There is some good news that activists and entertainers, such as Daniel Dae Kim, have spoken out against anti-Asian hate. But more leadership will be needed to prevent this latest trend from getting worse — or turning deadly.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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