Asian Americans still aren’t reaching the C-suite – and it all comes down to promotions. These 4 charts put the problem in perspective.

Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a prominent Asian American executive, but the pipeline for AAPI representation at the top has problems.

  • The “model minority” myth paints Asian Americans as overrepresented in the highest echelons of society.
  • But a closer look at employment data shows a more complicated situation.
  • Asian Americans are badly underrepresented at the executive level.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One of the most long-running and pernicious myths about Asian Americans is the “model minority” idea that the group is overrepresented in the upper echelons of American society.

But a closer look shows that there’s a big problem with the pipeline for Asian Americans moving up the corporate ladder. While there is a high level of Asian American representation in professional roles, research into career advancement across workers of various ethnicities suggests the group remains deeply underrepresented among managerial and executive positions.

For example, a 2020 analysis of the C-suites at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies by executive recruiting firm Crist Kolder Associates found that just 38 CEOs, or 5.6% of the total 682 executives in the study, identified as Asian or Indian.

That long-running gap between strong representation in the white-collar workforce and much lower numbers in the C-suite implies Asian Americans don’t have the same opportunities for promotion as their white colleagues.

Buck Gee, one of the authors of the research and an executive advisor to the Ascend Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving Asian American representation in the workforce, told Insider that “the problem is not representation” across all roles. “The problem is equity of promotions.”

A dearth of Asian-Americans at the top of the corporate ladder

The Ascend Foundation analyzed 2018 data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Based on representative data for the entire US, its main results showed that Asian Americans made up about 13% of the professional workforce but just 6% of executive and senior officers and managers:

To help put that comparison in perspective, the Ascend authors took the ratio of the executive share divided by the professional share to make an “Executive Parity Index.” If that index is above 1, it indicates that a group is overrepresented at the executive level, relative to its share of workers in the professional pipeline; if it is less than 1, it means the group is underrepresented.

That index shows that in 2018, white Americans were overrepresented in executive positions relative to their share of the white-collar professional workforce, while non-white groups, including Asian Americans, were underrepresented:

Those disparities suggest that Asian Americans and other people of color are not moving up the corporate ladder at the same rate as white workers. The share of executives who are white outstrips the white share of professionals, indicating that white workers are more likely than people of color to ascend to the executive suite.

Silicon Valley and the financial sector are just as bad

While the above charts focus on national disparities across all industries, the EEOC data also allows for a closer look at specific industries in specific places.

An earlier Ascend Foundation analysis focused on Silicon Valley, in particular calculating a similar Executive Parity Index as above for the manufacturing and information sectors in the San Francisco and San Jose metropolitan statistical areas using EEOC data from 2007 through 2015.

That analysis showed that while Asian Americans are very well represented among rank and file Silicon Valley workers, with about 47% of the professional workforce identifying as Asian, they were similarly underrepresented at the executive level as in the national, all-industry analysis above:

The finance and insurance sector shows similar results, based on 2018 national data provided to Insider by Ascend:

It’s important to fight stereotypes to break through this racial glass ceiling

This all suggests a problem with the executive pipeline, with Asian Americans and other workers of color not being promoted to higher managerial levels as their white peers. Fortunately, there are clear steps organizations can take to improve equity.

Gee told Insider in an email that a key step to addressing the problem is for diversity and inclusion programs to “look beyond the superficial numbers and recognize that a review of diversity must separately examine three issues.”

Those issues are diversity of recruitment, or making sure that an organization is hiring a diverse array of new employees; diversity of retention, which seeks to make sure employees from underrepresented groups actually stay with a company; and diversity and equity of promotions, or making sure that representation flows up the entire corporate ladder.

He also advocates that companies use data to get a clear picture of the situation, and create “an executive sponsorship program for high-potential AAPI senior managers.”

Denise Peck, an executive advisor with the Ascend Foundation and one of the authors of the above studies, says she acted as a mentor in one such program at Cisco, when she worked there as an executive 10 years ago.

In that program, about 35 mid-level Asian managers spent six months attending lectures from industry leaders, mentoring sessions with executives like Peck, skill-building workshops, and fireside chats with company executives.

Peck said that the program was successful. She told Insider that “a high percentage of the people who went through this program were promoted to Director level within 18 months of the program, and some even left the company because they became more skilled, confident, and attractive to companies on the outside.”

A few of them became VPs at Cisco, Peck said, “and probably sooner than they would have without the program.”

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House passes bill to counter anti-Asian hate crimes, sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature

grace meng nancy pelosi anti-Asian hate crimes bill
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looks on as Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) speaks during a news conference with House Democrats and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on the “Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act” on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 18, 2021.

  • The House passed legislation on Tuesday to address the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
  • The bill passed the chamber in a 364-62 vote.
  • The Senate approved the bill last month. It now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that addresses the rise in violence and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lower chamber approved the legislation, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in a 364-62 vote.

The bill directs the Department of Justice to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, provide guidance to state and local governments to improve public reporting on hate crimes, and raise awareness about hate crimes during the public health crisis.

Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who championed the bill, said it makes clear that hate against Asian Americans is “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated.” The legislation also demonstrates that “Congress has the Asian American community’s back,” she added.

“An attack on the Asian American community is an attack on all of us,” Meng said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The bill’s passage comes after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it 94-1 last month in a rare bipartisan effort. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the lone “no” vote, arguing it was “too broad.”

The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. Biden has previously expressed support for the legislation and condemned hate crimes against AAPI communities in an executive order during his first week in office.

The federal government has been under pressure to respond to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. The nonprofit group, Stop AAPI Hate, has reported 6,603 incidents of physical assault, shunning, verbal and online harassment, and civil-rights violations against AAPI communities in the US from March 2020 to March 2021.

Meng and fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced the legislation in March in the wake of a mass shooting at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The deadly attack sparked national outrage over the uptick in anti-Asian violence coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 across the country and former President Donald Trump elevating terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.”

During a hearing on the bill in March, Meng accused Trump and other Republican officials of “putting a bull’s-eye on the back” of Asian Americans by regularly using inflammatory rhetoric about the pandemic.

“Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19 and as a result Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed,” Meng said on Tuesday. “We are here today to say that Congress is taking action.”

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Less than 1% of US elected leaders are Asian American, despite making up more than 6% of the US population

President Joe Biden speaks with Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Mazie Hirono, Mark Takano, Rep. Judy Chu, and Rep. Grace Meng during a meeting with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Executive Committee at the White House in Washington.
In this April 15, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden, accompanied by from left, Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Mark Takano, D-Calif., Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., speaks during a meeting with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Executive Committee at the White House in Washington.

  • Less than 1% of elected leadership in the US are members of the AAPI community.
  • But AAPI individuals make up more than 6% of the population.
  • The statistic was included in a report by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which investigates diversity in elected leadership.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Asian American lawmakers make up less than 1% of elected leaders in the US, despite the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders accounting for more than 6% of the nation’s population as of mid-2020.

The statistic was included in a report by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which investigates diversity and demographic representation in elected leadership. The report was included in an article by Politico on Tuesday.

There are two US senators who are part of the AAPI community – Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. At least 16 US representatives are AAPI individuals.

On a state level, there are more than 150 state legislators in 31 states across the US. One-third of whom are representing majority-white districts, but only 17% representing majority AAPI districts, according to the report.

“The exclusion of Asian Americans from political power mirrors the history of AAPI exclusion and erasure from American society,” Brenda Choresi Carter, the director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, said in the report. “But AAPI communities are winning visibility and power, and AAPI leaders are winning elections and reshaping politics, from city halls to Congress and the Vice President’s office.”

Strides in AAPI representation in the political sphere were made when Vice President Kamala Harris made history as the nation’s first female vice president, as well as the first vice president who is Black and of Asian descent.

When taking all levels of government into account, the only state whose AAPI elected officials proportionately represent its AAPI population is Hawaii. Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke said in the report that states with significant AAPI populations – save for Hawaii – AAPI people are underrepresented in elected office.

“As a result, governments are unable to adequately serve vulnerable AAPI communities with cultural competency and with language access,” Mielke continued.

When measuring state legislatures alone, AAPI elected officials begin to mirror that of their AAPI constituents, according to the report. The percentage of state legislators in Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Washington who are AAPI are “relatively close or equal” to their AAPI population, the report read.

However, New Jersey has the fourth largest AAPI population in the US but has two AAPI state legislators, and Nevada has the fifth largest AAPI population and has only one AAPI state lawmaker, according to the report.

“Voters, regardless of party identification, really want to see reflective leadership,” Carter told Politico. “Political power has been concentrated in the hands of white men in the United States since the very beginning. And I think we are seeing the limitations of that.”

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It can be easy to make a connection between anti-Asian and anti-Black violence – but comparing them only creates more division

Activists march after atlanta shootings against Asian hate
Activists at a demonstration in Atlanta, Georgia in March, after shootings left eight people dead.

  • As anti-Asian violence surges amid the pandemic, some have compared it to the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Katie Li, a second-generation Chinese American, writes that this ‘rivalry’ only reinforces the divide among people of color.
  • Activists should stand in solidarity without comparing Asian hate crimes to anti-Black oppression, Li says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

This article contains racial slurs.

As a second-generation Chinese American, I’ve always felt disconnected from Chinese culture – I struggle with the language, am unfamiliar with its customs and traditions, and feel like an impostor in a Chinese body when interacting with first-generation immigrants.

But I also constantly feel alienated in America. Despite having lived in the US my entire life, I can’t help but feel like a foreigner in my own hometown, where people look at my face and immediately see me as something otherly. My whole life, I’ve identified with the label of “American” as much as I’ve identified with “chink,” “gook,” and “virus.”

The rapid rise in anti-Asian violence and the fear it’s instilled in recent months has been a brutal reminder to millions of us of what it means to exist as an Asian in America, and it’s left us in a state of overwhelming grief and anger.

In light of these hate crimes, Asians ranging from celebrities to politicians to ordinary people have spoken out against the increasingly rampant discrimination we face. This is exactly what we should be doing. Given the widespread reluctance to acknowledge anti-Asian racism, even among Asians ourselves, we need to make our voices heard.

But at the same time, however, Asian American advocacy is far too often predicated on rhetoric that’s implicitly anti-Black.

Instead of uplifting us, this harms all people of color and pits us against one another, thereby upholding the white supremacy that oppresses and dehumanizes us.

Growing up in the US, I’ve been constantly surrounded by the stereotypes associated with being Asian.

We’re purportedly all smart, hardworking, quiet, and obedient. I took pride in hearing friends, teachers, and family members, Asian and non-Asian alike, apply these characteristics to my own race. It felt like a compliment; Asians were all high-achieving, so I automatically was too.

When I was told that stereotypes were harmful at a young age, I wondered how this could be possible. After all, what harm could come out of someone believing I was intelligent and hardworking?

The narrative that hard work and intelligence – and, by extension, success and prosperity – is an inherent part of the Asian identity not only veils the discrimination we face, but also perpetuates racism against other groups. The assumption is that Asians – the “model minority” – can achieve high levels of success in academia and the workforce despite being people of color, so if Black people fail to do the same, it’s because of their own inherent shortcomings rather than systemic barriers.

Because being perceived as hardworking doesn’t seem offensive or harmful at face value, many Asians buy straight into this narrative, resulting in a subtle sense of anti-Blackness that often manifests itself in Asian American advocacy.

We shouldn’t treat racism like a competition

When I first heard about the targeted shootings of Asian women in Atlanta several weeks ago, I instantly thought of the tragic murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. Beyond that, however, I was also reminded of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans who were unjustly murdered.

Considering the racial unrest in the US this past year, it can be easy to make this connection between anti-Asian and anti-Black violence; it’s a reminder that the oppression of one race is tied to that of other races and reaffirms the need to stand in solidarity with other people of color.

However, we need to be careful that these connections don’t turn into comparisons.

In response to skyrocketing anti-Asian violence, some people have adopted “Asian Lives Matter” as a catch-all phrase to condemn racism against Asians. Of course, our lives do matter, but using this phrase is fallacious in a way similar to “All Lives Matter” – it’s not untrue, but it’s a direct response to “Black Lives Matter” that attempts to derail our focus on anti-Black oppression and shift it to a different group. The history of racism in the US is far too nuanced for one marginalized group to simply replace another, even if it’s just in a saying or hashtag.

Our goal should not be to replace or diminish the Black Lives Matter movement but to simultaneously advocate for Black and Asian Americans. Alternative hashtags like #StopAsianHate and #StopAAPIHate accomplish this by condemning anti-Asian racism without co-opting a movement that isn’t ours.

That being said, this underlying sense of competition – or, as activist Elizabeth Martínez once called it, “Oppression Olympics” – spans far greater than the use of a hashtag. Some Asians have been quick to criticize Black Lives Matter activists for not explicitly acknowledging anti-Asian violence. If activists can advocate for Black people, they reason, then why can’t they advocate for Asians?

Instead of uplifting ourselves and shedding light on our struggles, this reasoning insinuates that we are only owed support because Black people also received it. It forces us to spend our energy competing with one another rather than truly addressing white supremacy. It unravels the solidarity between Asian and Black activists and downplays the significant work Black civil rights activists have done to benefit people of color throughout history.

Activism is not a zero-sum game; fighting anti-Black racism benefits Asians and vice versa.

To truly contribute to Asian activism, here’s what we do.

Let’s focus on uplifting the voices of Asian Americans. Rather than place blame on the Black Lives Matter movement for occupying so much attention, let’s take inspiration from the decades of hard work activists have done to bring such attention to racial issues.

Let’s put our energy into supporting groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice, who are bringing visibility to our struggles. Let’s donate to Asian activist groups and support Asian-owned businesses.

Let’s learn more about the history of anti-Asian racism and speak out against politicians’ xenophobic rhetoric. Let’s report hate incidents and have difficult discussions about how racism impacts us.

Let’s work with fellow people of color, not against them.

Katie Li is a journalist from Seattle. Connect with her on Twitter.

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Nearly 2,000 New Yorkers have signed up to voluntarily escort Asian Americans to their destination amid hate crimes

rally new york
Demonstrators march during a protest against Asian hate on Times Square in New York, the United States, March 20, 2021.

  • About 1,800 New Yorkers are volunteering with SafeWalks to escort Asian Americans from a public area.
  • The volunteers signed up in response to a surge in anti-Asian violence across both New York and the US.
  • Most recently, a 65-year-old Asian woman on Monday was assaulted in broad daylight on a New York City sidewalk.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More than 1,800 New Yorkers have signed up to walk Asian Americans from any public area to their destination in an effort to combat and prevent anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.

Volunteers – many of whom speak Mandarin or Cantonese – are patrolling New York City neighborhoods like Chinatown and offering escorting services to anyone who asks for their help, Pix11 News reported.

The initiative is part of SafeWalks NYC, started in January after a string of attacks on women in the subway.

Volunteers, Pix11 News reports, give out flyers and wear bright safety belts. Each shift lasts two hours. A fundraiser to support the SafeWalks initiative has raised about $17,000 since it was posted to GoFundMe in February.

“We need to show our humanity. We can’t let people hurt our seniors, our elders,” volunteer Lisa Gold told Pix11 News.

Anti-Asian violence has surged

In recent weeks, there have been numerous anti-Asian attacks in New York City.

Just on Monday, a 65-year-old Asian woman was assaulted and yelled at on a New York City sidewalk. Her assailant, 38-year-old Brandon Elliot, kicked her to the ground and stomped on her head repeatedly while two doormen in a luxury apartment watched, security footage released by the police shows. When Elliot walked away, the doormen closed the apartment doors on her.

Nationally, recent stories related to anti-Asian violence also paint a grim picture.

Two weeks ago, police arrested a man in connection to a string of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Six out of eight of the victims were Asian women. Each attack had taken place at three massage parlors within an hour of one another on Tuesday.

The shooter, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, Georgia, suggested to police that the attacks were due to a sex addiction and were not racially motivated.

Multiple research studies have identified that the number of anti-Asian crimes and violence have spiked in the last year.

An analysis from Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, for example, found hate crimes overall decreased by 7% in 2020. That same study found that hate crimes specifically against Asian people rose by about 150%.

Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit tracking violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, released a report that identified nearly 3,800 instances of anti-Asian discrimination just in the past year.

And that’s a very mild estimate, Stop AAPI hate said in its report.

“The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face,” the report says.

“Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now,” a press release from Stop AAPI Hate said. “Anything else is unacceptable.”

Pedestrians in New York who want to request a safe escort or to volunteer can do so on the SafeWalks website, by emailing request@safewalx.com, or by DMing the @SafeWalksNYC handle on Instagram.

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Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Justice Department will review how to tackle anti-Asian violence within 30 days

Asian community protests Atlanta shooting
Demonstrators at at Rally Against Hate to end discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, New York City, March 21, 2021.

  • The Department of Justice is prioritizing a review of its handling of anti-Asian hate crimes.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the new effort in a Tuesday statement.
  • Garland says he wants the Justice Department to “recommit” to using its resources to combat hate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Tuesday that the Justice Department would review how to tackle anti-Asian violence within the next 30 days.

The review was announced in a letter from Garland obtained by CBS Chief Justice and Homeland Security Correspondent Jeff Pegues and shared on Twitter by his colleague, CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Weijia Jiang.

Garland cited the DOJ’s efforts to prosecute Ku Klux Klan members in its early history, saying, “One hundred and fifty years later, hate crimes persist and continue to have a toxic effect on our society.”

Hate crimes against Asian-American have surged in the last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Garland said he wanted the Justice Department to “recommit” to use its resources to combat hate.

Read more: Meet Merrick Garland’s inner circle of 15 officials working to restore the Justice Department’s independence after Trump

He said the Justice Department would consider how it could better track the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents, prioritize criminal investigations, utilize civil enforcement authorities to ensure bias does not arise, and equip US Attorney’s Offices with resources to protect against hate.

“While this effort remains ongoing, the Department will seek justice for the victims of hate-fueled mass murderers we have seen too many times in the past several years – killings that have shaken our communities, torn at our social fabric, and undercut our most basic values,” Garland said in the statement.

Garland added that he would “continue to deploy” community outreach organizations and civil enforcement power to help prevent further hate crimes. That would include working with state and local authorities to provide bolstered resources to both investigate and prosecute hate crimes and prevent potential hate events before they occur.

In mid-March 2021, a mass shooting targeting massage parlors and spas in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, brought the rising trend of anti-Asian violence and hate crimes into the national spotlight and onto the radar of Congress, the Biden White House, and law enforcement agencies like the DOJ.

Violence targeting Asians and Asian-Americans has been on the uptick since early 2020 when COVID-19 began to spread around the globe, continuing decades of painful discrimination and violence against people of Asian descent in America.

Insider’s Ryan Barber recently reported that Garland, an experienced federal prosecutor and former longtime judge, is also aiming to restore morale and boost a sense of camaraderie at the DOJ following the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, culminating in the January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol.

Also on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced a number of White House initiatives to combat anti-Asian hate and violence.

They include “reinstating and reinvigorating” the White House’s work with federal agencies to focus on hate crimes. To that end, Biden is redirecting some funds from the American Rescue Plan to create a new $49.5 million grant program to help Asian-American domestic violence and sexual assault victims, and also establishing a new COVID-19 Equity Task Force focused on xenophobia and health disparities.

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A new study has linked the rise in anti-Asian online hate speech with President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 rhetoric

trump grifting
President Donald Trump.

  • The Anti-Defamation League said online hate speech aimed at Asian Americans rose last year.
  • Rhetoric from President Donald Trump and other leaders fueled the rise, a study said.
  • ADL saw an “85% increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter” after Trump got COVID-19.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As President Donald Trump and other US officials last year referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” the “Kung Flu,” and other incendiary nicknames, a chorus of commentators warned that their rhetoric would lead to an increase in harassment and hateful speech.

“There is no blame in this,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director at the World Health Organization, when asked about Trump’s language in March 2020.

Now, a newly published study by the Anti-Defamation League has shown that the pandemic corresponded with a rise in hate speech and harassment on social networks aimed at Asian Americans. While it’s difficult to quantify the effects of the president’s comments, the study said some of that rise could be attributed to Trump’s statements.

Online harassment aimed at Asian Americans jumped about six percentage points in 2020 and early 2021, the largest rise for any group of people during the same period, according to a study published this week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL.)

About 17% of Asian Americans reported “severe” online harassment, up from 11% in the same earlier period, according to the study. In the same time period, online harassment reported by all Americans on social networks dipped about three points.

The survey added to previously published data about the rise of anti-Asian American speech since the start of the pandemic. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco said this month that Trump’s first tweet with the term “China virus” triggered a rise in anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter.

Kung Flu protest sign at rally against violence against Asian Americans
A rally against the rising violence against Asian Americans in Manhattan last week.

The ADL study also linked the rise in anti-Asian American sentiment on social networks and in the real world directly to Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric” about the coronavirus.

“The spike in physical violence against Asian-Americans across the nation was whipped up in large part by bigotry and conspiracy theories that grew online, fanned by national leaders,” including Trump, the study said.

ADL said its researchers saw an “85 percent increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter” after news broke that Trump had COVID-19.

Late last year, Twitter updated its policies around hate speech, saying in part it had developed “longer, more in-depth” training for its internal teams.

ADL said such efforts by tech companies haven’t yet made a difference.

“Although technology companies insist they have taken robust action to address users’ safety and remove harmful content throughout the past year, this report finds scant difference in the number of Americans who experienced online hate and harassment,” said the study released this week.

Since Trump departed office, there’s been an uptick in leaders voicing concern about hate speech and violence toward Asian Americans.

On January 26, a few days after Biden took office, he issued a memo condemning hate speech against Asian Americans. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he commended President Joe Biden for taking a stance against xenophobia toward Asian Americans.

“President Trump weaponized racism and xenophobia in 2020 by calling COVID-19 the ‘Kung Flu Virus’ and we are still witnessing increased hate speech and violence as a result,” Krishnamoorthi said.

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All 23 Democratic governors signed a letter condemning anti-Asian hate. Two Republicans joined them.

stop asian hate
Lucy Lee, of Marietta, Ga., holds an American flag while rallying outside of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta during a unity “Stop Asian Hate” rally Saturday afternoon, March 20, 2021.

  • A bipartisan group of governors and former officials released letters denouncing anti-Asian bias Friday.
  • All 23 Democratic governors, the governor of Guam, and two Republican governors signed one letter.
  • More than 60 former officials who served the past six presidents signed another.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In a show of solidarity, 26 governors and more than 60 former officials denounced violence toward Asian Americans in a pair of bipartisan statements Friday.

Hate incidents against Asian Americans have skyrocketed in the last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and calls to condemn anti-Asian hate have been building since the Atlanta-area spa shootings that left eight dead, including six Asian women.

All 23 Democratic governors and the governor of Guam signed on to a letter released Friday in solidarity with and support of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Only two Republican governors – Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland – out of 27 joined them

“Today, and every day, we stand in solidarity, in support, and in shared resolve with the Asian American community,” the letter said. “Hate will not divide our states, territories, and communities. We condemn all expressions of racism, xenophobia, scapegoating, and anti-Asian sentiment.”

The letter acknowledges America’s racist past, saying this year will go down in history along with the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, and the mistreatment of Muslims and Sikhs after 9/11.

“What is happening to Asian Americans is simply un-American. We condemn racism, violence, and hatred against our AAPI communities, and we must do more to protect, lift up, and support” the community, the letter said.

More than 60 Republicans and Democrats who have previously served as Cabinet secretaries, senior White House officials, and congressional chiefs of staff for the past six presidents signed a separate statement urging the Biden administration and Congress to protect the Asian American community.

The signatories include Elaine Chao, labor secretary under George W. Bush and transportation secretary under Donald Trump; Gary Locke, commerce secretary under Barack Obama; and Norman Mineta, transportation secretary under Bush and commerce secretary under Bill Clinton.

The release of the letters coincided with Stop AAPI Hate’s virtual day of action.

Stop AAPI Hate is a community advocacy group launched last year to track the number of hate incidents against Asian Americans following the onset of COVID-19. The group has tracked more than 3,800 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian bias since the pandemic started.

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Trump and Biden’s anti-China foreign policy is fueling violence against Asian-Americans

Atlanta shooting vigil
Demonstrators at a vigil for the Atlanta shooting victims, in New York City, March 19, 2021.

  • The recent killing of six Asian-American women highlights the link between domestic and foreign policies.
  • Many officials have condemned the attacks, but they need to acknowledge that over-the-top language about China fuels fear and anxiety that spurs violence against Asian-Americans.
  • Jessica J. Lee is a senior research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

“Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit,” President Biden declared in Atlanta last Friday. “We have to speak out. We have to act.”

While President Biden’s condemnation of the murder of eight people in Georgia, including six Asian-American women, is welcome, it misses the mark in an important way.

Both the speech and the statement issued by the White House failed to acknowledge that Washington’s over-the-top language about China is fueling an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, which boomerangs in the form of violence against Asian-Americans. If there was any doubt that American foreign policy is domestic policy, these shootings should quell them.

To see how toxic the American discourse on China has become, one only needs to look at what transpired in Anchorage last week and the ongoing congressional debate on the annual Pentagon bill. The vitriol that was exchanged by American and Chinese officials in Alaska was unprecedented for its harsh and undiplomatic tenor, and will likely make cooperation on critical areas such as pandemics and climate change that much more difficult.

But when seen in the context of bipartisan efforts in government over the past five years to label China as a threat to America and the US-led world order, the debacle in Anchorage is not that surprising.

The Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy mentions China 33 times, more than twice as many as the Obama administration’s version did. Similarly, the Biden administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance repeatedly singles out China as a direct threat to national security.

Neither document mentions how the US government would advance legitimate national security interests without creating an environment of hatred against Asian-Americans, similar to how the Muslim American community faced retributive violence after 9/11.

blinken anchorage
US and Chinese officials at their first meeting under the Biden administration, in Anchorage, Alaska.

In Congress, members regularly use China to show that they are tough on national security without any regard for how their out-of-control language could shape American perceptions of Asians.

For example, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) tweeted that “China’s goal is nothing less than the complete destruction of the United States” in response to the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus’ call to cut the Defense budget and channel resources to under-resourced areas such as global health. Such overt China bashing makes it nearly impossible to have a rational debate about areas of cooperation between the world’s two largest economies.

The truth is that what happened in Georgia is the latest manifestation of hatred borne out of racially charged language deployed by a growing number of public officials on both sides of the aisle to cast blame on China, and indirectly, all East Asians and Asian-Americans.

Rep. Wittman, the top House recipient of campaign contributions from arms manufacturers and military contractors, offers perhaps one of the egregious examples of stoking fear and anxiety in order to advance a military-centered US foreign policy toward China. But he is hardly alone.

Rather, Rep. Wittman is a part of an ecosystem that reinforces and normalizes such extreme views. And by not addressing this vicious cycle, government leaders are distracting the public from addressing the cause, rather than the symptoms, of violence against Americans of Asian descent.

The tragic incident in Georgia is only one of nearly 4,000 reported hate crimes against Asian-Americans since terms like “China virus” and “Kung Flu” have become commonplace in Washington.

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes targeting Asians rose by nearly 150% in 16 of America’s largest cities in 2020, when China was routinely blamed by presidential and congressional candidates for America’s ailments.

Given the barrage of anti-China language in government and media, why would anyone be surprised that Asian-Americans have become collateral damage?

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Members of the Asian-American Commission hold a press conference outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston to condemn racism toward the Asian-American community over of coronavirus, March 12, 2020.

One person from Milpitas, California described experiencing verbal assault this way: “I was shopping when a man started making faces at me. When I asked him what was wrong, he said ‘We delisted your companies, we shipped back your international students, when do you ship out?”

The message is clear: Anyone who looks Chinese is suspect and should be expelled from this country.

Another person in College Park, Maryland reported the use of xenophobic language in the classroom: “One of my professors was talking about the public health response to COVID-19 during a virtual lecture and explicitly called it the “China Virus.” “We’ve got to be very careful about that country, and what they’d do to us,'” he told the class.

This, despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s warnings against stigmatizing people of Asian descent for COVID-19. The World Health Organization has also warned against naming diseases to certain populations or nationalities as far back as 2015.

Asian-American discrimination has a long history, dating back to 1871 when 17 Chinese immigrant men were lynched by a mob in Los Angeles. But the current situation is particularly explosive due to the hypersensitive domestic environment in which Americans are looking for someone to blame for the pain and suffering caused by the pandemic.

In response to the shooting in Georgia, President Biden has called on members of Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Grace Meng, as a way to expedite government response to hate crimes.

This is a welcome move but falls woefully short of what is needed given the magnitude of the problem at hand. A more holistic, self-reflective strategy that connects the dots between foreign policy and domestic policy is urgently needed.

There must be more discussions among national-security experts with domestic-policy experts about the scope of the challenge at hand.

Even if the Hirono-Meng bill passed the House and got enough Republican senators’ votes to pass in the Senate (a high bar), it would not address the underlying motivations for these hate crimes. Members of Congress who deploy zero-sum language on China to justify a bloated Pentagon budget must be called out and held responsible for the secondary order impact that their rhetoric is having on Asian-Americans.

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Demonstrators at at Rally Against Hate to end discrimination against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, New York City, March 21, 2021.

The current situation has grave national-security implications for the federal government as well.

The stigmatization of Asian-Americans in government and exacerbating concerns of dual loyalty will only make it harder for patriotic Asian-Americans to serve in government. Such discriminatory efforts could also lead to poor foreign-policy decisions, as we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Biden administration’s interim National Security Strategic Guidance recognizes that the United States confronts a wide range of challenges, from a global pandemic to a deepening climate emergency. But it also assumes the worst about China’s intentions, which will make constructive engagement between two of the world’s largest economies difficult.

The Quincy Institute presents an alternative approach to thinking about China and East Asia, one that emphasizes stability and regional cooperation, and diplomacy over military dominance. In other words, there are other ways to manage US-China relations without marching into war.

Thirty-nine years ago, at the height of the auto trade war with Japan, a Chinese-American man named Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Detroit. The people who killed him thought he was Japanese. Rather than paying lip service to Asian-Americans while perpetuating grossly oversimplified narratives about China, President Biden and the Congress should stop demonizing China. They must stop using China fear tactics to justify more military spending.

As Rep. Marilyn Strickland stated on the House floor, “Words matter. Leadership matters.” It is time for American policymakers on national security and domestic civil liberties to work hand-in-hand to create policies that actually help Americans rather than pit them against one another.

Jessica J. Lee is a senior research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute.

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Asian Americans are increasingly purchasing guns to defend themselves amid a spike in hate crimes

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Rifles displayed in a gun shop in Salem, Oregon.

  • More Asian Americans are buying firearms to protect themselves against hate crimes.
  • The spike in sales comes amid a surge in racist rhetoric and attacks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A recent analysis found hate crimes against Asian Americans rose nearly 150% in 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

More Asian Americans are buying firearms to protect themselves amid a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Forbes.

“Before, there was never gun culture in the Asian community. But after the pandemic and all the hate crime going on, there are more Asians buying guns to defend themselves,” Jimmy Gong, the owner of New York-based Jimmy’s Sport Shop, was quoted as saying in the Forbes report.

During the pandemic, gun sales have doubled for Gong. About half of his business derives from Asian Americans, who also buy a lot of pepper spray, he told the outlet.

According to the report, gun stores across the US are also seeing an increasing number of Asian Americans purchasing firearms for self-defense purposes. Poway Weapons & Gear in California saw a 20% increase in Asian American first-time buyers over the past year compared with the year before that, said Danielle Jaymes, the store’s general manager.

Six of the eight people killed in the Atlanta shootings on Tuesday were Asian women, although no motive for the shootings has been established. Robert Aaron Long, 21, has been named by police as the suspect in all eight deaths, which took place at spas. He was arrested after a car chase south of Atlanta in Crisp County, around 150 miles away.

A recent analysis found hate crimes against Asian Americans rose nearly 150% in 2020. President Joe Biden addressed the spike in a televised broadcast on Friday, labeling it “un-American” and insisted that “it must stop.”

Though police officers have ramped up patrols in Asian American communities to try and safeguard against attacks, many people are still choosing to take defense into their own hands, The New York Post reported.

As Anti-Asian rhetoric increased during the pandemic, former President Donald Trump was criticised for referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” The World Health Organization has urged people not to use that term, along with several others.

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