What the Media Gets Wrong About Anti-Asian Hate
We need to arm ourselves with knowledge, not guns
Over the past year, I have witnessed with alarm the increased attention to violence against Asian Americans. As someone who has studied and taught about anti-Asian discrimination for nearly two decades, my concerns were intensified by news coverage and viral videos featuring elderly Asian Americans being brutally attacked. I saw a narrative unfolding — that Asian Americans were facing a unique level of hostility relative to other groups and that it was the most vulnerable members of our community who were bearing the brunt of physical assaults.
The disturbing level of anti-Asian violence has been deeply felt by our communities and is entrenched in U.S. history. The news media, especially Asian American journalists, should be commended for insisting we pay attention to the story of anti-Asian bias so that more people acknowledge the racism Asian Americans have faced.
But we must also step back and examine the assumptions we are making about anti-Asian hate. Too often, crime is understood from a visceral perspective. Media coverage has heightened fears among Asian Americans, such that many are afraid to venture out in public, are buying guns for self-protection, and are taking self-defense classes.
The media also tends to distort crime in the United States — with crime coverage particularly perpetuating racist stereotypes of Black people. In many cases, the most viral videos of anti-Asian hate have featured attacks by Black men. In some cases, the reporting on these attacks has failed to distinguish between violence motivated by hate versus violence motivated by economic or other factors.
As part of several organizations working to combat anti-Asian discrimination, I recently summarized four types of data from nine different sources of anti-Asian hate incidents, focusing on statistics and studies published over the past year and a half.
What I found in my review of the data, which can be accessed in this full report, helps put anti-Asian violence in perspective. These statistics tell a very different story from the media coverage. They show that while there has been an increase in anti-Asian hate since the start of the pandemic, it is…