Stop AAPI Hate has released its new report highlighting how inflammatory language used by political figures and candidates could amplify anti-Asian scapegoating and hurt Asian communities ahead of the midterm elections.
In the report, titled “The Blame Game: How Political Rhetoric Inflames Anti-Asian Scapegoating,” the advocacy group shines a spotlight on how political rhetoric played a role in the rise of scapegoating that blamed Asians and Asian Americans for several issues, including COVID-19, national security and economic insecurity.
Analyzing the 2,255 incidents the group has recorded since March 19, 2020, Stop AAPI Hate noted that 96% of those cases had unfairly blamed Asians and Asian Americans for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report noted that in 95 incidents (4%), the victims said they were blamed for national security reasons, such as being accused of acting as spies on behalf of the Chinese Community Party (CCP). In 15 incidents (1%) recorded by Stop AAPI Hate, the group said the victims were blamed for being economic threats, such as taking jobs away from Americans.
“These incidents represent one in five (20%) of the 11,467 hate incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) submitted to our reporting system,” the group said.
Stop AAPI Hate, however, noted that the number of cases it had recorded was just “the tip of the iceberg” compared to a national survey that estimated at least three million AAPIs had experienced hate crime incidents between March 2021 and March 2022.
“In every chapter of U.S. history, immigrants and people of color unfairly suffered blame for our nation’s economic problems and societal ills,” Stop AAPI Hate wrote. “Our nation’s leaders have time and again played into existing narrative frames that consolidate political support and public opinion against a common ‘enemy.’”
In its report, Stop AAPI Hate also highlighted some examples of political rhetoric that caused hurt in the community, including the “Corona Big Book” that the National Republican Senatorial Committee published in April 2020, in which it blamed China and the CCP for starting the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost two months after that, former President Donald Trump started using the terms “kung flu” and “China virus” when referring to COVID-19 during his campaign rallies – a move condemned by many, including former President Barack Obama – which also ignited a lawsuit while Trump was still in office.
Trump’s subsequent uses of the racist terms in his tweets resulted in an increase of anti-Asian sentiments by 174 times and around 8%, Stop AAPI Hate said. Some of the tweets the report noted also included slurs, such as “ch*nk.”
Earlier this month, Trump called his former transportation secretary Elaine Chao “Coco Chow” in one of his recent attacks against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the social media platform Truth Social.
Following the publication of the report, several politicians and leaders have spoken out against anti-Asian rhetoric ahead of the midterm elections on Nov. 8.
“Politicians must be careful with what they say,” Rep. Grace Meng (D, NY-6) said. “We ask this of politicians from all political parties.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA-27) advised that the “message we deliver must be one about American strength and increased opportunity, not one of fear and violence.”
“We’ve seen how the rhetoric used about our communities, not just in relation to Covid-19 but also around economic competition with Asian countries, results in the harm and even murder of Asian-Americans here at home,” Chu, the chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus, added.
“There’s no question that the relationship with the US and China is complex, and there’s considerable tension,” Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of civil rights group Chinese for Affirmative Action, said.
“We’re not attempting to dictate foreign policy. But what we are saying is, no matter what an elected [official] or candidate’s policies are toward China or any foreign country, they are responsible for their words and the harm that extreme inflammatory language causes.”
Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the civic group AAPI Equity Alliance, said history should not repeat itself.
“Over 250 years, we’ve seen the devastating violence and exclusionary policies brought on by scapegoating in the arenas of public health, national security and related to economic issues,” Kulkarni said.