Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States have been the target of more than 2,000 bias incidents since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic -- with nearly half of them occurring in California, a new report says.
The figures were released Wednesday by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, a coalition of organizations in the greater Los Angeles area that advocates for the rights of the AAPI community.
In March the organization launched Stop AAPI Hate, a program to track coronavirus-related harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. As of July 1, there were over 2,000 incidents reported across 45 states, with 42% of incidents coming from California.
At a Wednesday press conference, council Executive Director Manjusha Kulkarni was joined by California Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi and David Chiu in asking California Gov. Gavin Newsom to include members of Asian communities in the state's upcoming COVID-19 task force "to help ensure the state takes real action," Kulkarni said, as well as to educate schools and businesses about the impacts of xenophobia and racism.
They also called on the governor to allocate around $1.4 million for specific policies and research programs to help curb discrimination as part of the COVID -19 general fund, and also to strengthen existing anti-discrimination laws and mental health services for those who are affected.
Kulkarni, who said the state's recently-passed $202 billion budget included no funding for initiatives to fight anti-Asian discrimination, said the organization nonetheless feels the governor is open to their concerns and that members are "really hopeful this will be among many important issues that rise to the surface."
In response, Newsom's press secretary, Jesse Melgar, told ABC News that "we value our relationship with the API Caucus and other stakeholders, and look forward to ongoing dialogue about how we collectively work toward the vision of a California for All."
"Racism and xenophobia have no place in California -- not during a public health emergency when it is essential we come together to support all of our communities -- not ever," Melgar said.
Recently, several videos of a woman harassing local Asian Americans in Torrance, California, went viral on social media. She was seen going on a racist rant at a park on two separate occasions, and in a third similar incident at a mall in 2019. A Torrance police department investigation resulted in no arrests.
Around the same time a typed note was found posted on the door of a Japanese cookware shop in Torrance threatening the owner with violence. “We are going to bomb your store if you don’t listen and we know where you live. Go back to Japan, you monkey,” the note read.
Members of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council say these are just a few of the more than 800 incidents that have been reported in California over the past three months.
Assemblymember Muratsuchi has lived in Torrance, a city whose population is over 34% Asian, for over 20 years, and says he acknowledges Newsom’s past support of Asian Americans. But he calls the recent attacks "ugly and disgusting" and says he hopes they can get the resources necessary to deal more effectively with the spike in anti-Asian activity.
At the press conference, officials also directed blame toward President Donald Trump, whose continued use of terms like "Chinese virus" and "kung flu" was said to encourage racist rhetoric against Asian Americans.
"This pandemic of racism is being perpetrated by the commander in chief of the U.S.," said David Chiu, chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, who also addressed struggling businesses in LA's Chinatown. "This is akin to the tactics he used in his 2016 campaign when he attacked our Latino community using similar dog whistles."
Kulkarni said that although systemic racism hasn’t impacted Asian Americans as heavily as the Black and Latinx communities, they have also been the victims of racism.
This period of reckoning "gives us an opportunity to stand with our African American sisters and brothers and fight what they're going through," she said.