Folks, this is a contentious issue, so we're going to discuss it calmly, intelligently, articulately, and politely. Cursing, name-calling, ad hominem attacks, excessive "passion," or anything that smacks even remotely of racial stereotyping will be deleted without seeing the light of day. Thank you for making this a productive debate.
Hyphen blog has been following the community uproar over the recent attack in Oakland upon an Asian American man, that resulted in his death. The Oakland attack was committed by two young African American men. This attack followed on the heels of two attacks in San Francisco -- again by African American young men upon Asian American elders -- which resulted in a woman's hospitalization and a man's death.
Please read the following articles and editorials for more details:
On the one hand, the Asian American communities in both San Francisco and Oakland are contending that attacks upon Asians by African Americans -- that often go unreported by immigrants with poor English skills or a tendency to distrust cops -- happen frequently. Nevius cites an unnamed police survey of strong-arm robberies, which showed that "In 85 percent of the physical assault crimes, the victims were Asian and the perpetrators were African American."
Some Asian Americans contend further that they are targeted specifically because they are Asian ... and that these attacks border on, or are clearly in the realm of, hate crimes. They claim that the police and some community groups are downplaying blatant racism in an attempt to prevent racial tensions from flaring up.
But the police contend that only certain Asians are being targeted, along with certain Latinos, for their age and small stature, because of the vulnerability to attack that this confers. They also cite Asians' tendency not to report such crimes as an added inducement. They emphasize that it's only a small minority of African Americans committing these crimes, and that the crimes are violent robberies and not hate crimes.
Some African American groups, while deploring the attacks, are doubtful that the attacks are racially motivated. And there is a general grumbling in the community that the media's handling of the issue emphasizes Asian American fears, while ignoring the roles African Americans have played in getting victims help, and in serving as witnesses that helped catch the perpetrators. There's concern that the media is playing off of stereotypes and mainstream fears of violent, young, black men -- a story told more often than it is true.
There is also the issue -- rarely touched upon -- that the San Francisco Bayview/Visitacion Valley neighborhood in which so many of these attacks occurred is one of the embattled San Francisco African American communities. This neighborhood has been diversifying, and gentrifying, at the usual San Franciscan rate in the past several years -- which means that longtime black neighbors are being pushed out. The implication is that this recent history heightens tensions, even if it doesn't contribute to violence.
In the absence of any clear evidence that black-on-Asian violence is endemic, or that it is racially motivated, what do you think about this situation? Is it true that (some) African Americans are targeting Asian Americans out of hatred? Or are (some) Asians targeted because they appear -- or are -- vulnerable? Are Asians putting themselves at risk by refusing to report crimes or cooperate with police? Are Asians creating tensions by "invading" traditional black neighborhoods, and not being good neighbors? Is the media playing all of this up because a race war sells newspapers?
ETA: Bernice Yeung just sent me these statistics for your information:
- Bureau of Justice statistics between 2002 and 2006 on violent attacks on Asians vs. non-Asians put the attacks on Asians at "11 violent victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older, compared to 24 per 1,000 persons for non-Asians." There was no breakdown of non-Asian groups.
- FBI hate crime statistics for 2008 has overall hate crimes against APIs as its second lowest number, after Native Americans/Alaskan Natives. Whites committed far and away the most hate crimes against APIs. These numbers are absolute, not proportional.
Please keep in mind that these are statistics on reported crimes, and that the contention of both sides of this debate is that APIs seriously under-report crimes. So these numbers don't necessarily reflect the actual picture of violent crimes against APIs.