Since the new coronavirus first surfaced in China late last year, the number of reports of racist verbal threats and harassment targeting Asians in the United States has been on the rise, and both public health officials and police are starting to track it.
Hojun Choi, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, recently wrote about racist threats against residents of Asian descent in the state’s capital city. Although Asian Americans make up a small portion of the Texas population – less than 1% – they are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the state. Since 2010, their population has grown by 42%.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic first spread to the United States in early 2020, threats against Asian Americans started to grow.
“One of the sources we spoke to is a Jasmine Yuan, who is a Chinese individual, Chinese American, lived in the United States for 13 years,” Choi recalled. “And she described a situation in which she was actually just in the grocery store parking lot and a car drove by and yelled ‘Corona!’ before driving off. We spoke to a local DJ, named Michael Pendon, who is of Filipino descent, born in the United States, actually. And he was, while he was biking near the UT campus, he was called homophobic slurs as well as racial slurs.”
Because data collection on these specific pandemic-related threats are just now being collected, there’s not a great sense of how pervasive the incidents are yet, Choi said. But both police and other groups are encouraging the public to report them.
“We did reach out to APD [Austin Police Department], and what they do recommend now is to keep track,” Choi said. “And if you are a target of these attacks, obviously, first, if you feel like you’re immediately in danger, get out of the situation and call 311 or 911.”
Choi said local residents who are witnesses to these types of threats can also help.
“Sometimes these individuals who are maybe of Asian descent, who are targets of these things, English might not be their first language. So, I mean, you can help others,” he said.
Nationally, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council is collecting information on harassment of Asians in the United States, and is encouraging people to report incidents to them. Between March and July, 63 threatening incidents have been reported to them from Texas. In Austin, residents can go online to the Austin Asian Community Health Inititative and file an incident report.
“That’s pretty easy to fill out. It’s pretty self-explanatory,” Choi said.