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The ‘Black-Asian Conflict’ Is a Problematic Trope — and It’s Time to End It

Efforts to direct Asian American anger at the Black community are rooted in White establishment anxiety

Published in
7 min readMay 17, 2021

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There’s a familiar sequence on social media every time a new incident of anti-Asian violence occurs. A viral video is shared on our timelines. We don’t want to click. We can’t help but click. And we watch. And once again we see it: a brutal assault on one of our most vulnerable. Screams, tears, blood. And onlookers walking quickly past, turning their heads to avoid what they don’t have the time or interest to intervene in.

And then, inevitably, the identity of the perpetrator is exposed. Sometimes a freeze-frame is all it takes. Sometimes the disclosure comes later, from a second video taken at another angle, or a security camera, or a police mug shot. When the face we see revealed is Black or Brown, it serves as support for a narrative that some seem highly motivated to advance: that the primary threat Asians face is from other people of color.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the same screen-grab of Department of Justice crime statistics posted on my feed, alongside the same ominous claims about the menace of “Black on Asian crime.” It’s a table comparing the races of offender and victim in violent crimes, ostensibly using the data point that Black people commit 27.5% of attacks on Asians — while White people commit only 24.1% of attacks against Asians — to “prove” that “woke” Asians are misguided for blaming “White supremacy” for the surge in assaults on our community, that Black people are what Asians should fear.

Never mind that the data doesn’t normalize for geographic circumstances — how much of this is because Asians and Black people are more likely to intersect due to Asian immigrant enclaves existing adjacent to or interspersed with Black communities?

Never mind that it doesn’t account for Asians operating late-night businesses in low-income, predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Never mind that it isn’t even hate crime data at all — the statistics are included in the DOJ’s reports as part of a demographic reference, and the crimes in question were neither framed as being racially motivated…

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