Attacks on Asian American New Yorkers have become so prevalent since the pandemic began that one lawmaker is calling on the governor to declare a state of emergency. One woman was shoved in front of a subway train. A senior citizen was punched in the face by an assailant who reportedly told police Chinese people “look like measles.” Another woman was stabbed 40 times in her Chinatown apartment, and a “Stop Asian Hate” memorial left in her honor was smashed by vandals. “The community feels a lot of anger, as well as fear, every time they leave the house,” Assembly member Ron Kim, the lawmaker proposing the state of emergency, told Politico.
Kim and other Asian American leaders and elected officials say their community is at a breaking point. Hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers quadrupled last year and many other attacks went unreported or weren’t classified as hate crimes. Some hope that Mayor Eric Adams, who won his office with a tough-on-crime message, is taking the issue more seriously by implementing changes at the New York Police Department. The new mayor, a former police captain, faces longstanding issues of trust between the police and the community with some critics saying the NYPD hasn’t taken hate crimes seriously enough. Adams is up against a narrow legal standard that is hard to prove in court because hate crimes require evidence that a perpetrator used a slur or demonstrated other blatantly racist behavior. “Our community is so vulnerable at this point that we’re not sure if we can handle more. We’re just very afraid,” said Ben Wei, founder of the nonprofit group Asians Fighting Injustice. “Some of our claims have just not been taken seriously by law enforcement.” There were 131 hate crimes targeting Asians in New York last year compared to 28 in 2020 and just one in 2019, according to police statistics. The increase has continued so far this year, with ten offenses logged in January and February compared to four in the same period last year.