Critics charge NY Times story on disagreement between Asian and Black activists ignores data

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The New York Times is facing criticism for failing to address what some contend is a crucial point in a recent article that sought to explain why Asian and Black activists struggle to unite against violence.

Driving the news: In a 1,500-word story published on Sunday, the Times identified policing as the “one main issue” that divides the communities. While Black Lives Matter activists — fueled by the death of George Floyd in May 2020 — call for defunding law enforcement, some Asian leaders support more policing, given the astronomical surge in attacks against their community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Technology reporters Kellen Browning and Brian X. Chen began their article by citing solidarity statements between some Black and Asian communities, which came in the wake of the fatal Atlanta mass shootings in mid-March. Robert Aaron Long, a white man, was sentenced to life without parole after pleading guilty to four of eight deaths.
  • Black and Asian communities “historically have been divided by racial tensions and socioeconomic inequality,” the authors wrote. In supporting the case, they presented one stark difference: Black Americans are disproportionately killed by police, while Asian Americans are least likely to be harmed.
  • The article managed to lay out the views of those who oppose policing, including “younger activists of both races” seeing the matter as ineffective. However, it lacked information on how law enforcement has helped Asian communities feel safer, despite already citing statistics on the hate crime spike.

The authors also highlighted the income difference between Black and Asian Americans based on a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center. The fact that Asian Americans — while being the most economically divided group — earn the most and Black Americans earn significantly less, at least in 2016, made finding a common ground difficult, the Times quoted one academic as saying.

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What critics are saying: As of Monday, at least two articles have criticized the Times over its piece. The Media Research Center (MRC), which brands itself as “America’s Media Watchdog,” and an op-ed for RT News, both slammed the publication for evading “the elephant in the room”: Black-on-Asian crimes.

  • “So who committed those hate crimes against Asians? The Times neatly avoided mentioning the disproportionate number of blacks that instigated ‘hate crimes’ against Asians, though the numbers are readily available in the same place the paper found its other data. How can one write about black and Asian relations without mentioning those statistics?” author Clay Waters wrote on MRC’s NewsBusters. “The reporters passed on without condemnation or comment [on] the anti-police radicalism from black-led anti-police groups.”
  • Waters also took offense at the Times’ reference to “clashes” between Korean business owners and “poorer Black residents” in South Central Los Angeles in the 1990s. Riots following the acquittal of four police officers who beat Rodney King saw the destruction of over 2,300 Korean businesses. “Equating Korean store owners ‘wrangling’ with ‘poorer Black residents’ in Los Angeles to Korean-owned businesses being ‘looted and burned’ by Black rioters is an offensively asymmetrical comparison,” Waters noted. “Yet the Times seems to think they’re equivalent, tucking both examples under the euphemism of ‘clashes.’”
  • In his op-ed for RT, Tony Cox, an American journalist, said the Times ignored the “obvious conclusion” in its piece. “In all its navel-gazing, the Times failed to mention the elephant in the room: It’s tough to work together in combating violence when Blacks appear to be the main perpetrators of crime against Asians in America’s big cities,” Cox noted.
  • Cox also addressed the issue with putting “white nationalism” in the middle of anti-Asian crimes. “The problem was, the assailant was a Black man,” Cox wrote, referring to a February incident that left a 61-year-old Asian man with a slashed face. “Observers couldn’t help but notice that in case after case, the skin colors didn’t fit the political narrative of white supremacy being the crisis of the day. In fact, so many of the perpetrators turned out to be Black that the legacy media conspicuously stopped hyping anti-Asian hate crimes.”

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