The Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. Trump-inspired? Not Quite.

On March 5th, an ABC News headline warned, “Rise in anti-Asian American hate crimes may lead to mental health crisis.” I finished the article with this thought: Not telling me who the perpetrators are makes it difficult to understand what’s going on. I waited to see whether more stories would enlighten me on that very important piece of the puzzle. (I know what that puzzle piece is and I promise not to tease you more than a few paragraphs.)

Four days later, Newsweek provided a clue in an editorial by Helen Raleigh: “Asian Americans Emerging as a Strong Voice Against Critical Race Theory.” “Critical race theory (CRT) is a divisive, discriminatory ideology that judges people on the basis of their skin color,” writes Raleigh. “It has penetrated our society—it’s in federal agencies’ and federal contractors’ ‘bias training,’ in school curricula and many corporations’ ‘diversity training.’ Few are willing to speak out against it for fear of being labeled racists or white supremacists.” But there’s good news: “Asian Americans, however, have emerged as a powerful voice against this pernicious ideology.”

Asians know what’s it’s like to be on the bad end of the CRT stick, including the violent end. CRT, announcing itself as an antiracist ideology, is the gospel of racial division and resentment. Policy based on antiracist ideology functions to divide the population in the way traditional racism functioned to divide the population: categorizing individuals by superficial phenotypic features and demanding requiring that some categories enjoy privileges that are exclusive to others. CRT is thus best described as the “new racism” (the new racists tried to get the jump on that term by defining criticism of the new racism as the new racism).

A moment ago I made the observation that, without identification of perpetrator characteristics, I did not know what to think about anti-Asian bias crime. I told you that I wouldn’t make you wait long. It’s a polemical way of saying that the media is not telling us who the perpetrators of anti-Asian bias crimes are because the media agenda is to blame the attacks on those who correctly identify the source of COVID-19, namely China, and may go on to suggest that the totalitarian government of that country does not have American’s best interests at heart (nor is it fond of the Chinese people). In other words, the establishment needs the public to assume that MAGA people are attacking Asians because of things Donald Trump has said about China and anybody who would do that must be MAGA (i.e., racist, xenophobic, and other bad names).

Looking at the data since the early 1990s, offender race is significantly variable across bias crimes perpetrated against Asians, blacks, and Hispanics, and the overwhelming difference is that bias crimes against Asian Americans are more likely than bias crimes against either African Americans or Hispanics to be committed by nonwhites, primarily black American. I want to make sure the reader understands this: it is not mostly whites who perpetrate anti-Asian bias crimes; it is mostly nonwhites, especially blacks.

Anti-Asian bias crimes have been happening for decades and that obviously means it has little to do with the term “China virus” fundamentally, albeit COVID-19 and its origins in China may has something to do with spurring violence. It’s not just because anti-Asian bias existed long before COVID-19 that I say that; despite the inroads Trump made into the black community in terms of popular support, there aren’t very many MAGA hat wearing black Americans. While COVID-19 may have increased incidents of violence, it is not the underlying cause any more than changing cotton prices in the postbellum South were the underlying cause of lynching. The underling cause of racial patterns in lynching was racism (I have published scientific papers on this, for the record).

One might object that CRT is a new thing. But CRT and its influences have been around for quite some time. We have known for decades that violence against Asians is driven by animosity toward Asians as a “model minority.” The “model minority” idea is a stereotype assuming that Asian success in economics, education, etc., represents a threat to the success of other nonwhite racial groups, which in turn leads to resentment that may manifest in bias crime. This is the same argument was (and to some extent still is) made about Jewish economic and educational success in Europe and America. Jews are a “model minority.” Nobody doubts that antisemitism lurks behind a great deal of violence against Jews. This is also the argument that we hear today concerning “white privilege” and “white supremacy.” This same resentment likely feeds violence against whites in the form of robbery and other crimes in which racist motives are rarely admitted.

Anti-Asian bias manifests in other ways beyond violence, such as race-conscious policies restricting access to Asian applicants to Harvard University. In 2014, Students for Fair Admission filed a lawsuit in US federal district court against Harvard claiming that university discriminates against Asian-American applicants. The suit was rejected in 2019, a decision upheld in the First Court of Appeals, but the plaintiff has asked for a hearing before the Supreme Court. In 2015, a coalition of several dozen Asian-American organizations filed a complaint with the US Education Department and Justice Department against Harvard demanding a civil rights investigation in Harvard’s race conscious policies. The Obama Administration rebuffed the group, but the Trump Administration reopened the investigation in 2017. With the 2020 election, it is unclear what will happen to the investigation. However, under Biden, the DOJ, citing the appeals court ruling in the Harvard case, dropped a similar investigation into claims Yale discriminates against Asian students.

Why would the media keep from Americans by not reporting the identity of those who perpetrate anti-Asian bias crimes? Three reasons are obvious, I think.

First, corporations and the Democratic Party frames social problems to their advantage. Favored minorities perpetrating violence against other minorities, as the progressives say, is not a good look. The look they’re going for is blaming the white majority for the woes of minorities, since this draws minority votes to the Democratic Party. Thus the Democratic Party, as the party of big corporate power, plays a major role as moral entrepreneur in perpetuating the myth of white supremacy. Democrats use the white supremacist boogieman to manufacture fear and resentment among Americans. They use it to justify building a wall around the Capitol while maintaining a porous southern border (open to more potential voters). They use it to justify weakening voter integrity law and policy. Etc.

Second, the Democratic Party is the political force leading the legislative and policy pieces of the transnationalization project (otherwise known as the managed decline of the American republic) and this means hiding from sight the fact that the Chinese Communist Party, which controls much of the global supply chain and is buying up property around the world, exploiting the pension funds of the American worker to finance it all, is the single greatest threat to the health, safety, and wellbeing of working class Americans. By blaming MAGA for anti-Asian bias crimes they marginalize nationalist criticism of the role played by the People’s Republic of China in globalization. Progressives smear populist politics as xenophobic and racist.

If Americans were to blame China for unleashing COVID-19 on the world, especially if Americans learn about the evidence that the virus was the result of gain-of-function research organized in Wuhan and other Chinese labs by none other than Saint Anthony Fauci (however justified for public health purposes, experiments indistinguishable from biological weapons programs), this will draw public attention to the vast industrial plantations transnational corporations use to produce their gadgets, to Chinese imperialism in Africa and Latin America producing the conditions that lie behind mass migration, and to the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people.

Third, critical race theory is ubiquitous in the institutions of the United States. Administrators, managers, and educators swim in the ideology of racial division and antagonisms, which they transmit to employees and students who then take these ideas to their family, friends, and neighbors. They double-down on racial division and conflict in the wake of the success of the civil rights movement in the 1960s began not long after the foundation of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a colorblind society was established. This program, when the framing is not deliberate, produces a blindness of its own, in which the fact of inter-minority antagonism and conflict eludes awareness. That reporters can’t provide images of MAGA hat wearing perpetrators of anti-Asian bias crimes is mystified by the absence of any perpetrators at all. The ethereal creeping hand of anti-Asian bias shoves elderly Asian men to the ground.

Any of you who were around during the 1992 Los Angeles riots will likely remember the situation of Americans of Korean descent. (If you wanted a preview of a world where cops stand down and permit rioting and looting, Los Angeles 1992 was surely it.) At the time of the riots, many businesses in majority-black neighborhoods in South Central were owned by Korean immigrants. The immigrants were able to purchase the business as white owners who leaving the neighborhood because of high crime and violence. When police abandoned the neighbors to rioters in the wake of the acquittal of police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King, Korean business owners and residents were left to defend themselves.

Armed Korean storeowners during the 1992 riots.

Distracting Americans from the problem of social class, Democratic politicians (who are mostly white) divide the world into whites and honorary whites, on one side, and people of color (whom Democrats used to call “colored people”), on the other. They appeal to white creatives and professionals, i.e., privileged workers in the culture industry and administrative apparatus, and ethnicized/racialized minorities for votes, while marginalizing white working class and rural voters.

To shame people into silence, the media and Democratic Party dissimulate the actual cause of anti-Asian bias and blame it instead on frank talk about the role of China in crushing 60 percent of small business and throwing millions of Americans out of work. Progressives blame Trump and MAGA to gin up fear of those who wish to preserve the American republic. The rise of anti-Asian bias crimes is useful to the power elite only as long as the fact that the perpetrators are mostly black is not well known.

To the extent that COVID-19 provides any motive for anti-Asian violence, (a) failing to provide a honest context in which it may be explained to the public that Asians in America are not to blame for the actions of the Chinese Communist Party, indeed that the Chinese people themselves are victims of the CCP (and global corporatism), (b) failing to expose the real reasons Asians in America are the victims of bias crime, namely the progressive preachments of racial resentment, and (c) obscuring the truth of (b) by blaming anti-Asian bias crime on criticism of China, the Democrats and the media perpetuate the suggestion that there is a link between Asians generally and COVID-19.

In the spring of 2017, CNN wrote a retrospective on Los Angeles 1992 and pushed it into the network’s unrelentingly anti-Trump frame. “Asian immigrants, once a conservative bloc, have steadily moved to the center and left of the political spectrum, especially as their US-born children identify with more liberal beliefs,” writes Kyung Lah, in “The LA riots were a rude awakening for Korean-Americans.

“In 2016, exit polls showed Asian-Americans broke 65% for Clinton to 27% for Trump. As the country’s fastest-growing immigrant group, the trends don’t bode well for the GOP, who lagged behind the Democrats in Asian-American engagement in 2016.” CNN interviewed Robert Ahn, a LA planning commissioner, who told them that Latinos, African-Americans and Korean-Americans have “a lot more in common than differences.” The tone of the article makes it clear that that common interest is antithetical to populist-nationalism. “What I’m hearing from Trump and the rise in hate crimes in this country is scaring me,” Chang Lee, one of CNN’s interview subjects, said. “Los Angeles had this painful past. Now it’s time for minority ethnic groups to talk to each other, stay bound together, understand and support each other.” Nowhere in the story is the other point of view voiced. Odd given that more than one if four Asian-Americans voted for Trump.

So, you may wonder, how can Joe Biden come before the nation and tell us that COVID-19 was met by silence and denial for days, weeks, and months? Does Biden think he has a Neuralyzer in his pocket? I was there. I remember what happened. I was blogging about it in March 2020. I watched the Democrats telling us to go to Chinatown, calling Trump a racist and a xenophobe for banning travel from China. But it was administration official Peter Navarro who put Fauci in this place when Fauci tried to talk Trump out of the travel ban. Biden smeared Trump as a racist for banning travel. I remember Fauci telling the country we didn’t need masks—in fact, he said masks would only make things worse because the proles would be fiddling with them.

Biden’s address to the nation the other night began with a lie. He then went on to talk about hate crimes against Asian-Americans as if identifying the origin of the virus (China) is the reason for anti-Asian bias crime. He is simultaneously suggesting perpetrators while making anti-Asian bias appear acute rather than Chronic. The Biden administration dropped the investigation of anti-Asian discrimination at Yale University. Biden, a running dog of the Chinese Communist Party, has one overarching goal: to keep the public from talking about the role of China in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update (03.11.21): Jerusalem Demsas and Rachel Ramirez, writing for Vox, in confronting the evidence that most perpetuators of bias crimes against Asians are black, blame the history of tensions between Asian and black Americans on white supremacy. One can expect such attempts at rationalization will likely be suspended in light of the shooting of massage parlor workers in Atlanta, many of whom were Asian. Now they have a presumptive white supremacist to hold up.

However, the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, may not have committed a bias crime. Cherokee County Sheriff is reporting that there is no indication of racial motivation in the deadly spa shooting, but rather the perpetrator had issues with sexual addiction. Long apparently frequented the establishments he targeted in the attack. The Atlantic Journal Constitution, in “Cops: Shooting suspect says he targeted spas because of sexual addiction,” is reporting, “The 21-year-old man accused of killing eight people at three metro Atlanta spas said it was a sexual addiction—and not the race of victims—that led him to the alleged crime spree, police said Wednesday.

Returning to the Vox story, the authors admit therein that “anti-Asian sentiment in the United States is not new.” Demsas and Ramirez ask the reader to “just look to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned Chinese immigrants from becoming US citizens, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order in 1942 that put Japanese Americans into internment camps.” The authors also admit that “the attacks that have gained widespread attention have featured Black assailants, and have threatened to inflame tensions between Asian Americans and Black Americans.”

However, not bothering to look at data I shared above (and there’s more: “When ‘white supremacists’ aren’t even white”; “Dirty secret of black-on-Asian violence is out”), the Vox article claims to have “found no evidence that Black Americans are predominantly responsible for this rise in attacks, or that they are particularly hostile to Asian Americans relative to the rest of the population.” Yet the authors go on to write that “the narrative of Black-Asian hostility is rooted in immigration and economic policies.” Then the article explains everything in light of overarching white supremacy. It other words, the authors shift the discussion from the capitalist practice of using immigration to undermine working class communities to blaming white people for what capitalists do.

Having disregarded the material fact of capitalist mode of production in favor of an ideological construct, the authors wax hopeful: “There is already a long history of Black-Asian solidarity against oppression and structural racism, which has been obscured by these recent fissures. In the late 1960s, for instance, Black and Asian activists led the Third World Liberation From movement to establish race and ethnic studies in college and university curriculums in California.” And this is how mainstreaming an ideology by designing academic curricula around it that functions in the corporate-university alliance to systematically dissimulate the material fact of class exploitation reframes oppression as social justice.

“It’s not that Asian-Black tensions or racial hierarchies don’t exist today but that there is a failure to remember what got America to this place: white supremacy.” That black Americans are assaulting Asian Americans does not obviate the ubiquity of white supremacy. “The fact is that Black Americans are native-born Americans, and, like all native-born people, they are susceptible to xenophobic and nationalistic sentiments that can place blame on an ‘other’—in this case, Asian Americans, who can be seen as ‘forever foreigners’ even if they, too, are native-born.”

Then this: “While Black Americans (who are overwhelmingly Democratic) often have more liberal views on immigration reform, there is also existing research that indicates that Black people may feel economic competition with new immigrant communities that can manifest as broad anti-immigrant sentiment and racism.” Note the use of the word “feel.” It’s not that immigrants actually put black people at a competitive disadvantage in their own country. It’s that blacks made feel that there is economic competition and that can manifest itself as racism.

Finally, this historical note: “In 1965, the United States ended the quota-based system of immigration and began to push for high-skilled labor to enter the country. One group that was able to enter the country were Korean Americans who were hyper-selected—that is, they had much higher socioeconomic and educational attainment relative not only to their country of origin but also to the native-born US population.” In 1965, the unemployment rate was four percent. Perhaps there was a need for high-skilled labor. But what happened as a result of the change in immigration law was a massive influx of immigrants, high-skilled and low-skilled, with the result the chronic displacement of black labor with consequences for the black community, including high crime and violence and family disintegration.

Something else about the time line. What was happening in the United States in the 1960s? Driven by rising expectations amid civil rights and guided by a radical ideology, rioting and urban violence was commonplace. The violence drove white businesses and residents from the cities. Affluent Asians, in particular Koreans, entered the country and bought the properties abandoned by whites. They became the business owners and slum lords. Radical ideology told blacks their woes were attributable to oppression not to the dysfunctional culture associated with disorganized neighborhoods. Without whites around, “honorary whites” became the substitute targets of envy and resentment. Rising displacement from mass immigration fueled animosities that, the language of class struggle denied the masses, translated into racial terms.

To say all this is due to white supremacy is to suggest that whites are sufficiently organized to develop a strategy to protect their racial privilege. This is a conspiracy theory that should be seen as obviously wrong because most white people are not racially privileged. The reality is that capitalists are organized and, moreover, operate on the profit imperative, a confluence of interests, and this is what lies behind the policies that created the circumstances that brought Asian immigrants and their descendants into conflict with native-born black Americans. By making this about race, the organic intellectuals of the bourgeois class (critical race theorists and all the rest of it) disorganize the proletariat by defining the problem in racial terms. This is the new racism. Same as the old racism.

Update #2 (03.11.21):

The spree killer Robert Aaron Long was a devout Christian, hyper-religious it appears and he frequented spas aka massage parlors and he was deeply conflicted. Long’s age suggests his conflict may have occurred in the context of an emerging psychiatric condition.

Long’s parents contacted the Cherokee sheriff’s office to identify their son. They informed deputies that a tracking device could lead authorities to his vehicle. His parents were apparently worried about Long (why a GPS tracking device?). Long was captured in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, en route to Florida. Sheriff’s spokesman Jay Baker said Long viewed Florida as a hub for the porn industry. Long told him the Atlanta area “spas” were “temptations to him he wanted to eliminate.” This was a disturbed young man. He was delusional and hyper-religious. It isn’t hard to figure out what is going on here.

But the media, which has obscured the identity of the perpetrators of violence against Asian Americans, latched on to this story because it to fit the narrative they are trying to construct: that it Trump, MAGA, and rhetoric about the “Chinese virus” that is behind the violence.

I have watched the ever obnoxious Shaun King flipping out on Facebook over this story. Why didn’t the police drag Long out of his truth and suffocate him? Another white man taken alive! Etcetera. Race hucksters are so consumed with attention-getting and pushing the (false) narrative of a ubiquitous white supremacy they never wait to see what is actually going on. And the media is obsessed with suppressing the populist-nationalist movement. The establishment thinks it’s at war with the American people. And, in war, as we all know, truth is the first casualty. Even when they have to walk something back, they know how first impressions stick with a lot of people, especially those who want to believe the shit they’re shoveling.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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