Mayor Bill de Blasio, was joined by U.S Rep Grace Meng (NY-6) and later by Mayoral Candidate Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook, Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights and portions of Windsor Terrace, Dyker Heights, and Boro Park), to condemn the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination that was fueled by the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and racist rhetoric from politicians.
“On top of all the suffering from the coronavirus itself, on top of losing loved ones, losing businesses, people have had to confront horrible discrimination and hatred from the very beginning,” said de Blasio today, February 23, at his morning briefing.
“The rise in anti-Asian rhetoric and hate crimes is no accident,” said Menchaca. “Anti-Asian racism has been in this country long before the pandemic. But what hurts the most is knowing that so many cases go unreported because of language barriers or fears about drawing attention to an immigration status.”
The Mayor said there is definitely a concern about the reality of people not feeling they could or should report a hate crime. “We think there’s more out there, and we encourage people to come forward,” said de Blasio.
“The rise is happening in New York City, but not just America, all over the world,” said Deputy Inspector of the Asian Hate Crimes Task Force Stewart Hsiao Loo, who also captains the Manhattan South Detective Bureau.
Two weeks ago, an elderly Filipino man was slashed across his face with a box cutter on a Manhattan bound L train among other recent slashings on the city’s subways.
Loo said that there have been 28 COVID-related incidents involving people of Asian descent compared to 2019’s three anti-Asian hate crimes. He said out of those there have been 18 arrests in criminal court. De Blasio said the city is doling out harsh fines to anyone who commits a hate crime and is working closely with the task force to hopefully prevent more physical incidents.
“It’s hard to give a one-size-fits all solution, but more policing is definitely not the answer. We don’t need to over-criminalize our communities to keep them safe. What we need is to build trust by removing language barriers, investing in social services, and assisting victims and businesses. That is how we will build the social solidarity necessary to undo decades of scapegoating and stereotypes,” said Menchaca.
Menchaca, whose district has a large Asian American community, said he advocates for several organizations that have helped over the past year. Send Chinatown Love, a project helping several businesses in the district, Welcome to Chinatown, which is a community fund for small businesses, and #EnoughisEnough, another fundraising organization of small businesses meant to help the underserved in the community.
“These racist attacks have been outrageous and unconscionable, disgusting, and it must end,” said Meng, who introduced legislation in March 2020 to denounce anti-Asian sentiments.
“I also want to say thank you to so many other communities of color who have stood with us, and stood publicly against this sort of discrimination,” added Meng.
Meng mentioned the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which former President Chester A. Arthur signed into law to curb the rise of Chinese immigrants to the U.S for ten years and declared them ineligible for citizenship.
She said everything from that to the U.S’s Japanese internment camps in the 1940s to former President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban that targeted Muslims and Southeast Asians has been a sad reflection of the country’s history with attacking minority groups.
Pre-pandemic, the U.S saw a wave of anti-semitic attacks and struggled to confront its long history with over policing and brutality towards Black and Brown people right up until George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis cops last May.