TAMPA, Fla. — At ABC Action News, we’ve reported the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes across the nation. Thankfully, the Tampa Bay area hasn’t seen increased hate crimes directed at Asian Americans. Yet, many say they still feel uneasy when going out in public.
ABC Action News in-depth reporter Anthony Hill is digging deeper into the concerns and anxiety many local Asian Americans are experiencing since the pandemic began.
“We worry, but it’s also an awakening call to our community because we don’t want to be silenced anymore,” said Sunny Duann.
Duann immigrated with her family to the United States from Taiwan when she was a young girl. For the first time, she says she feels a sense of anxiety when in public.
Duann is not alone.
Many Asian Americans across the Tampa Bay area say they have a heightened sense of anxiety when in public due to the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes since the pandemic started.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University found that anti-Asian hate crimes rose from 49 crimes in 2019 to 122 in 2020, and it’s believed that many anti-Asian hate crimes aren’t even reported.
“The whole Asian hate crime right now really stirs this anxiety and concern from all over the country,” said Duann.
It’s not just the violence. Many Asian Americans say they have to tolerate racist comments.
“My sister, Patty, she’s a public school substitute teacher. When the pandemic started in March, her student across the hallway just called her Corona Virus, just like that.”
Duann says she and her sister have been hyper-aware of their race during the past year.
“As Asian Americans, we grew up with that. I mean, we can’t hide our face,” said Man Lee, the founder of the Tampa Chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals.
Lee says he’s been hyper-aware of his race since the age of nine because of the way people have treated him. But now, it feels a little different.
“There’s an added perception of violence or that there could be violence,” said Lee.
Lee says his organization is in constant contact with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that the local Asian American population is safe.
“So, the important thing is we started the open line of communication.”
The World Health Organization has made it clear as day, viruses don’t have nationalities, and it advises against naming viruses and disease after countries.
So why are we really seeing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S.? One expert says it has to do with the connection between prejudice and fear.
“Prejudice increases when fear is heightened and when prejudice increases, hate crimes increase,” says Brendan Lantz, Professor of criminology at Florida State University.
“When thinking about the current rise in hate crimes, I think we need political leaders and policymakers that will openly condemn anti-Asian hate and other forms of racism, rather than implicitly legitimizing it and condoning it by referring to the COVID-19 virus as, for example, as the China virus.”
This is not the first time Asian Americans have been on the receiving end of widespread discrimination and violence. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States.
During World War II, about 120,000 people of Japanese descent were forced into internment camps even though most were American citizens.
After the Vietnam War, many Southeast Asian refugees faced discrimination.
The Hate Crime, Research, and Policy Institute at Florida State University recently conducted a national survey of people of Asian heritage. It found that 70% of people of Asian heritage say they’re extra observant of their surroundings now. While about 25% say they mentally prepare for insults to be thrown at them when they’re in public.