The New York Times attempted to capture a sense of the rising tide of anti-Asian bias nationwide. Using news reports from across the country, The Times found more than 110 episodes since March 2020 in which there was clear evidence of race-based hate.
There have been many more attacks on people of Asian descent in which hate is not a clear motivation. But there is no ambiguity about the cases the Times collected: These are assaults in which the assailants expressed explicit racial hostility with their language, and in which nearly half included a reference to the coronavirus: “You are the virus.” “You are infected.” “Go back to China.” “You’re the one who brought the virus here.”
The episodes unfolded in most every region, in Carmel Valley, California; in Cleveland; and St. Petersburg, Florida. They have been mostly in big cities along the coasts with large Asian populations, but in small towns too, like Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Hate as a motive is difficult to prove. Prosecutors ask: Were the victims singled out because they were of Asian descent? Or would the assailants have attacked anyone who happened to be there at the time? But over the past year, hate crimes, as classified and recorded by police, rose at a faster pace against people of Asian descent than hate crimes overall. In New York City and Boston, hate crimes overall fell while anti-Asian hate crimes spiked.
The tally arrived at by The Times may be only a sliver of the violence and harassment people of Asian descent have faced over the past year, as hate crimes are generally undercounted and underreported, and only the most egregious accounts become headlines. It is also possible that the number of reports to law enforcement authorities and the news media have increased, rather than the number of episodes.
That said, our broad survey captures the breadth of violence across the country — episodes that grew in number after Donald Trump as president began calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” which activists said fueled anti-Asian sentiments early in the pandemic.
In New York City alone, the number of hate crimes with Asian American victims reported to the New York Police Department jumped to 28 last year, up from three in 2019. And so far this year, the department is actively investigating or has solved 35 anti-Asian bias crimes.
The swell of xenophobia is unmooring. It breeds palpable fear and feeds the notion of othering, of reducing an individual’s essence to ethnic stereotypes.
“We’ve gone from being invisible to being seen as subhuman,” Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., wrote after an attack in Manhattan last week. “We just want to be seen as American like everyone else.”
During that attack in Manhattan, in which the Filipino American woman was knocked off her feet and stomped on her head and upper body, the assailant uttered four words: “You don’t belong here.”
Beaten, Pepper Sprayed and Spit On
Most of the physical attacks in the Times’ survey have been reported in the last two months. A vast majority of the earliest episodes involved perpetrators who linked those attacked to COVID. Many of the victims — who range widely in age — were severely injured. Videos show that most of the assaults appear to have been unprovoked. Most of the perpetrators were male.
— Chicago: A 60-year-old Chinese American man out for a run was spit at by two women who threw a log at him, accused him of being sick and told him to “go back to China.”
— New York City: A 59-year-old man was kicked in the back and told to go back to his country by a teenager who also used an expletive to make a racist comment about the coronavirus.
— New York City: A 52-year-old woman on a bus was attacked by a group of teenage girls who accused her of spreading the coronavirus. One of them hit her with an umbrella.
— New York City: A 47-year-old man and his 10-year-old son were repeatedly harassed with vulgar racial and mask-related statements by a man who went on to push the victim in the back of the head.
— New York City: A 34-year-old woman was attacked on the street by another woman who spit on her, pulled her hair and told her, “You are the reason we have the coronavirus.”
— New York City: A 23-year-old Korean student was grabbed by the hair and punched in the face by a woman who yelled expletives at her and said, “You’ve got coronavirus.”
— Miami Beach: An older woman was chased around by a man with a bottle of hand sanitizer who used vulgar language to say she needed to clean herself.
— Midland, Texas: Three family members, including a 2-year-old baby, were stabbed by a 19-year-old in a grocery store because he thought they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
— New York City: An Asian man had a bucket of water thrown on him because “he has coronavirus” while standing and smoking on the sidewalk.
— Edison, N.J.: A 55-year-old-woman was surrounded by a group of teenagers and punched in the back of her head. The group shouted racial slurs related to the origin of the coronavirus.
— New York City: A 30-year-old man riding the subway was accosted by a man who shouted, “China boy” and “You’re infected,” and tried to shove him off the train.
— Seattle: A couple on the street were spit on, shoved and struck by a man who said, “It’s all your fault.”
— Albany, New York: Younglae Kim, a 27-year-old Korean employee at a beauty supply store, was pushed to the ground, spit on and harassed with racist remarks after confronting a customer for not wearing a mask.
— Philadelphia: A pregnant mother was punched and called a racial slur. The attacker also sprayed water on her and her daughter.
— Washington D.C.: Yunhan Zhang, a tea shop owner, was pepper-sprayed by a customer who also shouted “Chinese” and “COVID-19.”
— New York City: A 32-year-old woman was verbally attacked by a group of people, who made anti-Asian statements about the coronavirus and punched her in the face multiple times.
— Portland, Oregon: A woman and her son were kicked on a bus by a man, who said, “All Chinese persons have the virus and gave it to us.”
— Seattle: A woman at a crosswalk was shoved hard by a man, who then yelled, “Asians need to be put in their place.”
— Los Angeles: Denny Kim, a 27-year-old Korean American Air Force veteran, was struck in the face, called slurs and told, “You have the Chinese virus, go back to China.”
— Mountain View, California: A 36-year-old man was spit on and called a racial slur by a 39-year-old woman.
— New York City: A 27-year-old man was punched in the face on the street. The attacker made anti-Asian comments.
— Salem, Oregon: A 21-year-old student on her way to a grocery store was pushed and kicked by two men who made disparaging, racially charged comments to her.
— Seattle: Noriko Nasu, a Japanese American high school teacher, was attacked with a hard object, suffering a fractured nose and chipped teeth, in an incident police investigated as a “bias crime.”
— New York City: A 25-year-old mother and her baby were spit at three times, then called “Chinese virus.”
— San Francisco: A South Asian Uber driver was coughed on, racially insulted and threatened by three women, one of whom pepper-sprayed his car, after he asked one to wear a mask and she refused.
— New York City: A 68-year-old man was struck in the head unprovoked by a 36-year-old, who used an anti-Asian slur.
— New York City: A 66-year-old Asian man was punched in the face on the street in Chinatown and suffered swelling and bruising. The attacker yelled racial slurs at him before striking him.
— New York City: A 65-year-old Filipino American woman was kicked and stomped on in broad daylight in Manhattan near Times Square by a man who made anti-Asian comments.
— New York City: A 65-year-old woman was approached by a man waving an unknown object at her and shouting anti-Asian remarks.
— Los Angeles: A man in his 60s was struck in the head with a brick by a woman. The attacker shouted “Go back to China!”, according to the victim’s daughter.
— New York City: A 56-year-old Chinese man was beaten in a subway station on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Police classified the attack as a hate crime.
— New York City: A 54-year-old Asian woman needed stitches after she was struck in the face with a metal pipe by a man who declared, using an expletive, that he intended to hurt Asians.
— New York City: A 44-year-old woman on the subway was spit at by a man who hurled her phone to the tracks and called her an “Asian slut” in front of her children.
— New York City: A 41-year-old Asian American woman was picking up packages when a man poured and spit a drink on the back of her neck and bags, then yelled, “Go back to China.”
— New York City: A 37-year-old woman was followed in a subway station by a man who said, “Go back to your country,” called her a slur and punched her in the face.
— New York City: Katie Hou, 37, was leaving a protest against anti-Asian hate when she was punched in the face twice, after her sign was stolen and destroyed.
— San Jose, California: A 26-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and called racial slurs while waiting for a train.
— New York City: A 13-year-old boy was attacked by a group of teenagers who threw basketballs at his head while yelling obscenities, insults and “Go back to China.”
— Los Gatos, California: A woman of Filipino descent was shoved to the ground from behind and told, with expletive-laced language, to go back to China.
— Houston: Jung Kim, a 59-year-old Korean American woman, was punched in the face repeatedly by a group of young women who yelled racial slurs.
— Oakland, California: A gas station owner was confronted with a racist tirade of obscenities when a customer told him, “You’re not from here! You’re Asian!” and yelled stereotypes. The episode turned violent when the customer then used pepper spray on the owner.
Homes and Businesses Vandalized
Graffiti linking Asians to COVID or using other derogatory language has become prevalent. In one instance, “Kill all Chinese people” was written on the wall of a New York subway station.
— Woodbury, Minnesota: An Asian family found a note on their doorstep that called them obscenities and said, “We’re watching you” and “take the Chinese virus back to China.”
— Yakima, Washington: A restaurant was graffitied with a racial slur and “Take the corona back,” and its windows were broken.
— Madison, Wisconsin: “It’s from China #chinesevirus” was written on a sidewalk of a University of Wisconsin campus.
— Pasadena, California: A poster for the movie “Mulan” was defaced so it would read, “Toxic, made in Wuhan.”
— Albuquerque, New Mexico: Shuyuan Ye, a college freshman and Chinese international student, had his door covered in plastic with a sign saying, “Caution, Keep Out, Quarantine.”
— Albuquerque, New Mexico: An Asian noodle restaurant was marked with words meaning “watch out for the coronavirus.”
— Fresno, California: A family’s car was graffitied with a vulgar anti-Asian sentiment and a reference to the coronavirus.
— San Angelo, Texas: Jihan Kim, a 23-year-old exchange student from South Korea, found coronavirus-related posters pasted on his dorm room and, after confronting the person who did it, was threatened with a gun.
— New York City: “Stop eating dogs” was graffitied across a windowpane at a Michelin-starred Korean restaurant.
— San Diego: Vulgar insults against China were spray-painted on a building at a Little League field.
— Hoboken, New Jersey: Anti-Asian graffiti that included a racial slur was found spray-painted outside a New Jersey home.
— San Leandro, California: Xenophobic, anti-Asian letters were distributed throughout a neighborhood. A 52-year-old woman was arrested for posting them.
— Wyckoff, New Jersey: Graffiti including “coronavirus” and “go home to China” was written on the windows of a Chinese restaurant and the sidewalk in front of it.
— Irving, Texas: Racist hate mail was sent to someone blaming Chinese and Indian people for taking over jobs, and threatening to “shoot mercilessly” any that did not return to their home countries.
— Austin, Minnesota: “China virus” was burned into the front lawn of David Chao, who has Chinese heritage.
— San Francisco: A woman’s home was vandalized, and an anti-mask note left behind included a vulgar racial slur. It read, in part: “You create the virus.”
— New York City: Three variations on “Kill all Chinese people COVID” were graffitied in a subway station.
— Pineville, North Carolina: A real estate agent, Zheng Zheng Wiley, had her sign vandalized with an ethnic slur aimed at people of Chinese descent.
— Elk Grove, California: The front door of a Japanese restaurant was vandalized and painted with racist words.
— Los Angeles: A Buddhist temple in Little Tokyo was broken into, smashed and burned.
— San Antonio: An Asian restaurant was vandalized with racist and coronavirus-related graffiti after its owner spoke out about Texas ending its mask mandate.
— Seattle: The parking lot of a church was spray-painted with graffiti, including the words “CHINA YOU WILL PAY. GO HOME.”
Called Names and Racial Slurs
People of Asian descent, like those of other ethnic groups, have long been subjected to racial slurs. A vast majority of the verbal attacks in the last year also blame Asians for creating and spreading the coronavirus. Many of these attacks included racial slurs like “chink” and “Chinaman.” In a few instances, COVID was referred to as the “kung flu.”
— Martinsville, Indiana: A doctor of Korean descent born in Kentucky who stopped into a gas station for coffee was accosted by a store clerk who shouted, “Never come back. Don’t ever come back” and kicked him out.
— Syracuse, New York: A man shouted, “It’s you people who brought the disease” to a 30-year-old videographer at a grocery store.
— New York City: A woman named Emily Chen was confronted in the subway by a man who asked her, “You’re Chinese, why did you bring corona to America?”
— San Diego: An Uber driver was harassed with coronavirus-related comments from one of the passengers after he told them he was from Hong Kong.
— New York City: A 26-year-old woman on the subway had her phone stolen by a man who told her, “Go back to China” and “You are dirty, get your temperature checked.”
— Seymour, Connecticut: The Chinese owners of a sushi restaurant received multiple calls from people who blamed them for the pandemic, swore at them and threatened to shoot them.
— Cleveland: Kiwi Wongpeng, a Thai American woman, was driving when another driver yelled insults, including: “You’re a virus and get out of America. And that’s an order.”
— New York City: Yen Yen Pong, 37, was accosted by a maskless stranger who yelled racist remarks about the coronavirus.
— New York City: A 36-year-old woman was verbally harassed by a man who gave her the middle finger, struck her phone to the ground and said, “You’re the one who brought the virus here.”
— New York City: A 30-year-old nurse was harassed on a train by a man who called him a racial slur, then said, “You’re infected” and tried to remove him from the train.
— Stevens Point, Wisconsin: Grocery shoppers of Asian descent were called racial slurs and harassed for wearing masks.
— Philadelphia: A couple was called “disease spreader” by a man in a car at a stoplight.
— Los Angeles: A store cashier was verbally harassed by a man who said, “Asians are dirty,” as well as several obscenities.
— New York City: A 36-year-old woman on the subway was accosted by a woman who cursed at her multiple times and told her to “Go back to China,” then struck her phone as the victim filmed the rant.
— Philadelphia: Stephen Kulp, a 32-year-old attorney, was accosted by someone shouting, “Chinese virus, go back to where you came from!” and a series of slurs on a street.
— St. Petersburg, Florida: A Filipino American sports reporter was repeatedly called “kung flu,” told to go back to China and mocked for wearing a mask in a grocery store.
— Torrance, California: A man was told to “go home” and called a racial slur by a woman in a public park.
— San Jose, California: An elderly couple was called “disgusting” by a jogger while they were on a walk.
— New York City: Sungmin Kwon, 23, was called racial slurs and told that Asians don’t belong in this country while getting snacks at a 7-Eleven. He confronted the attacker and then was pushed.
— New York City: Crisanna Tang, 30, was spit on while riding the subway on her way to work. The assailant screamed “Asians caused the virus!” and “Go back to China!”
— Carmel Valley, California: A family celebrating a birthday at a restaurant was accosted by a tech CEO, who went on a racist rant against them.
— Mount Tam, California: An Asian American family out for a hike was confronted on the trail by a woman telling them they “can’t be in this country.”
— Los Altos, California: A U.S. Postal Service worker was called an anti-Asian slur after being scolded by an angry customer.
— New York City: Xian Tang, a driver who honked his horn, was verbally harassed by a cyclist whose tirade included vulgar, anti-Asian, misogynist, ableist and homophobic language.
— New York City: A woman riding the subway was verbally harassed by a man who shouted obscenities and “kung flu.”
— Los Angeles: A woman, H.D. Lee, who was waiting for her lunch, was called derogatory racial slurs and misogynistic terms by a man after she refused to eat with him.
— Newport Beach, California: Sophia Chang, a Korean American entrepreneur and social media influencer, was told to “go back to Wuhan” while having lunch with her sister.
— Ladera Ranch, California: An Asian American family was harassed relentlessly after moving into a new neighborhood, with kids throwing rocks, yelling slurs and pounding on their doors every night.
— Garden Grove, California: A man was sworn at and told, “I don’t think you live here” because of the shape of his eyes, along with a racial slur, by a neighbor who was unhappy with his son’s chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
— Fremont, California: A woman and her 10-year-old daughter were told “Go back to China!” by a neighbor.
— Los Angeles: A man in traffic was given the middle finger, cursed at and called a racial slur by another driver, who also yelled “Trump 2020” and used his finger to make a gesture making fun of the man’s eyes.
— San Diego: A family with a 1-year-old daughter was out on a walk when confronted and subsequently followed by a woman whispering, “Why do Muslims behead white people and not Chinese people?”
— New York City: A man was involved in a car accident, after which a bystander yelled a series of vulgar and racist statements, including, “Korea’s going down.”
— San Diego: A man using a squat rack at a gym was verbally abused by another patron who continued to yell numerous racial slurs even after other gym members confronted him.
— Orange County, California: Hanna Li, a young woman, was accosted by a man who said, “Thanks for giving my country COVID,” along with an obscenity and a slur at a shopping mall.
— Chicago: Mari Cobb, a 26-year-old research lab technician of Japanese descent, was filling up a soda at a Taco Bell when someone shouted that she had touched the dispenser, using an anti-Asian term. The person also yelled, “Stop her! She started this whole thing!”
— Seattle: A couple taking money from an ATM was threatened with a pistol by an attacker who shouted, “go back to your country.”
— Los Angeles: A woman walking down the street was sworn at and called “dumb” and “a stupid blue Asian-haired girl” by a man who gave her the middle finger.
— New York City: A gym manager was yelled at and told to “go back to China” by a client who refused to wear a mask.
— Miami: A woman riding a bus who reminded a man to wear a mask was called racial slurs and told “Mind your business, Chinese lady. I don’t care about you people. Go to hell. This is America.”
— New York City: A man in a grocery store parking lot, in a dispute over boxes, was repeatedly sworn at by a woman, who brought up the man’s race and said in obscene terms that she did not care if the tirade constituted a hate crime.
— Los Angeles: Raph David, a Filipino Uber driver, was berated by a passenger with expletives and racist insults.
— New York City: Maria Ha, 25, and Dan Lee, 31, were told to “go back to China” in expletive-laced verbal harassment by a woman in Manhattan.
— Portland, Maine: An Asian American woman was in her car with her children when a man broke the side mirror and yelled, “You Chinese go back to your country.”
— New York City: An Asian American owner of a laundromat was harassed by a group of teenagers who vandalized his store and used racial slurs, then attacked someone who tried to intervene.
— New York City: A 35-year-old woman riding the subway was verbally harassed by a man who made anti-Asian statements, then smashed her phone when she started filming.
— New York City: A 28-year-old man was approached by a man at a Home Depot, threatening, “I’ll cut you.” The attacker asked his girlfriend, who’s not Asian, why she is with him.
— Los Angeles: Arden Cho, a 35-year-old actress, was walking her dog when someone threatened to kill both her and the dog, using vulgar and racist language.