April Hate Report: How COVID-19 is Weaponized to Justify Xenophobia
Over the last month, we’ve seen hate and vitriol run increasingly rampant through our communities, at times outsizing the powerful acts of solidarity, unity, and compassion we have also observed during this time of global health crisis.
In the U.S., there have been more than 3000 reported incidents of hate violence targeting Asian Americans in the last month. A recent poll found that 60% of Asian Americans say they have seen or been affected by a xenophobic reaction to COVID-19. This xenophobia is being fueled by racist rhetoric and policy from public officials, like Senator Cotton’s recent statement on FOX News that Chinese students should be restricted from receiving visas. We’ve also seen an increase in coronavirus-driven hate violence fueled by Islamophobia. In India, since March 28, there’s been a surge in the use of the Islamophobic hashtag #CoronaJihad.. This follows the pogrom in Delhi in February targeting Muslims which led to the deaths of at least 53 people. Equality Labs has found that #CoronaJihad appeared “nearly 300,000 times” and was likely “seen by 165 million people on Twitter.” These tweets have been cited in attacks like this one against a paralyzed Muslim man in Valsad, Gujarat.
Meanwhile, Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim minority communities in Afghanistan have faced repeated attacks against their community and religious spaces, with the most recent being two coordinated attacks on Sikh gatherings in Kabul. While these attacks were driven by non-state actors, this amount of hate violence in the region cannot be separated from U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, which has played a role in intensifyingstate violence in the region for years. As a U.S. based organization, we believe it’s imperative that we hold our government accountable for its violence impacting South Asians outside U.S. borders. The Sikh Coalition has responded by demanding “the U.S. government to step up by resettling these families and taking other preventative actions to protect Afghan religious minorities”, which has raised an urgent question to our South Asian American communities: How can we actively confront, combat, and destroy xenophobia across geographic borders?
Since April 1, 2020, SAALT has tracked 6 incidents of hate violence targeting Muslims and those racialized as Muslim:
- On April 1, a man from Pennsylvania used various online aliases to post “hundreds of antisemitic, anti-black, and anti-Muslim messages, images, and videos”. He was charged with making threats.
- On April 15, a Tunisian Muslim shopper was physically assaulted and tasered by a security guard, before being forcibly escorted to an enclosed office space, in Los Angeles, CA. The shopper is a healthcare worker, and was cleared by the paramedics for release.
- On April 19, Princeton University’s Muslim Life Program’s online Jummah service was violently interrupted by “zoombombers”, who posted Islamophobic slurs and pornographic images.
- On April 21, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was verbally assaulted and received death threats (targeting both herself and her family) in her home state of New Jersey from an anonymous phone caller. The caller has not been identified. Al-Khatahtbeh is running for Congress.
- On April 23rd, the first night of Ramadan, Nicholas J. Proffitt burgled and set fire to the Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau, MO. Proffitt is being held without bond; this is the third attack he has orchestrated against mosques.
- On April 24, a mosque in Salt Lake City, UT, was vandalized while Ramadan celebrations were beginning.
Xenophobic political rhetoric continues to be used by public officials and institutionalized in policy. On April 23, the Trump Administration put forth yet another immigration ban. This ban, like the Muslim Ban and other policies targeting immigrants, are state sanctioned forms of racism and xenophobia. In the form of an Executive Order, it prevents any foreign national who is currently outside the U.S. and doesn’t have an immigrant visa from seeking an immigrant visa to the U.S. It claims COVID-19 as a reason for this ban, while simultaneously continuing to exploit temporary workers for their critical labor during this crisis.
SAALT has recorded 3 additional incidents of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric since March 17, 2020.
- On April 13, Muscatine County Jail Administrator, Dean Naylor, was found to have posted anti-Muslim and homophobic sentiments. His posts range over the past six years, including while he had his job at the jail.
- On April 27, actor Jeff Goldblum appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race and questioned a contestant’s outfit, which included an American flag hijab, asking “Is there something in that religion (Islam) that is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman?”
- On April 28, Senator Tom Cotton stated that “Chinese students should not be allowed to study in the United States” while on a FOX News television show.
Since April 1, 2020, SAALT has tracked 15 reported incidents of hate violence and rhetoric targeting Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander individuals and communities. However, we know the number of incidents is much higher. We have had over 3000 sensitive first-hand accounts of hate violence shared with us and our AAPI allies; these details will not be reported in SAALT’s Monthly Hate Reports.
- On April 2, a Korean doctor was prevented from entering a Martsville, IN gas station by one of its employees, who “reportedly told the police that the business would not allow people of ‘Chinese’ descent inside the store in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus”.
- On April 4, an Asian woman was assaulted in Edison, NJ by an unidentified girl. The girl was “was one among a group of people that surrounded and attacked a 55-year-old Asian woman in a hate crime over the origin and spread of COVID-19. According to a joint statement released by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and Edison Township Police, the girl had yelled at the victim and also punched her in the back of her head.”
- On April 5, in New York, NY, an unidentified individual poured an unknown substance over a 39-year old Asian woman, who “sustained chemical burns to her face, neck, shoulder, and back.” The NYPD are investigating the incident.
- On April 6, UCLA Professor Stephen Bainbridge tweeted that he believed his flu-like symptoms may have “come from his Chinese students”.
- On April 7, an unidentified man attacked a Chinese person by spitting on them. The incident was reported to A3PCON.
- On April 7, an unidentified person threw a drink at an Asian person’s face, and shouted, “They should be banned!” The incident was reported to A3PCON.
- On April 8, an Asian woman was attacked in her Sunset Park, NY neighborhood by a man who “doused her with a substance that gave her chemical burns”. The woman was admitted to Maimonides Medical Center. The perpetrator has not yet been identified by the NYPD.
- On April 8, a trail sign with the words “ASIA F*CK COVID” painted on was found by an Asian woman at Stony Creek in Oakland, CA.
- On April 9, Yukiko Yamamoto was verbally assaulted by an unidentified man when walking in her neighborhood in Little Tokyo, CA. The man shouted, “Chinese! Corona!” “Yamamoto was shocked, and the man’s voice was so loud that people down the street were surprised and turned around.”
- On April 10, owner and chef Douglas Kim found a racist Sharpie message with the words “Stop Eating Dogs” graffitied onto a window at his restaurant, Jeju Noodle Bar, in West Village, NY.
- On April 10, anti-Chinese graffiti was posted on a freeway in San Mateo, leading Mayor Joe Goethals to put out a public statement decrying the action.
- On April 13, the St. Paul, MN-based Coalition of Asian Americans were verbally assaulted during a live-streamed discussion. The Leaders of the Coalition had planned to speak “with historian Erika Lee and Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, but abandoned that effort when unwanted guests began posting “f — Asin” (sic) and other explicit remarks in the online chat area.”
- On April 20, Amanda Law was verbally abused by an unknown woman while walking her dogs in San Francisco, CA. The woman shouted at Law, “Why doesn’t she go back to where she came from!”
- On April 23, a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose, CA found its windows smashed and vandalized.
- On April 23, five other Asian-owned restaurants in San Jose, CA were found vandalized, with authorities believing it to be a single perpetrator who performed all of the damage.
- On April 27, the co-owner of Taste of China (a restaurant in Chesapeake, VA) shared “harrowing tales of strangers yelling ‘Go back to China,’ a car vandalized with the same hateful words and crude comments about the food.” The co-owner of the store said she did not report the incidents to local police, but will if they are repeated.
- On April 27, a couple was verbally assaulted by an unknown couple in New York, NY. One of the victims reported that she and her wife “stepped aside for [the perpetrators] to pass because it was a very narrow walkway, but the man in the couple reacted by shouting, ‘Are you serious? You stupid b*tch c*nt. You’re the ones that brought the virus here.’” After verbally assaulting them, the man attacked the couple and their belongings, ultimately smashing one of the women’s phones. NYPD are still looking for the man, but received photographs from others who witnessed the event.
Inclusive of the incidents in this monthly summary, SAALT and our partners have tracked 314 incidents of xenophobic or Islamophobic rhetoric, and 633 incidents of hate violence victimizing Muslims and Asian Americans, and those perceived as Muslim or Asian American, since 2015.