Mar 18, 2021

Anti-Asian crimes in America.

Anti-Asian crimes in America.

The Georgia shooting has called a larger issue into focus.

Today’s read: 11 minutes.

The Georgia shooting and the state of hate crimes against Asians in America. Plus, a question about how our vaccine distribution is going and some big reasons to subscribe to Tangle!

Actor Daniel Dae Kim is scheduled to testify before Congress today about the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Photo: Kanaka Rastamon

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There’s a saying in sports that “turnovers come in bunches.” Someone should do a study on the psychology of how mistakes compound. Yesterday, after not having any corrections in Tangle for more than two weeks, I made two mistakes.

First, I misquoted the Ground News blindspot report, writing that teachers in a union were being urged not to share photos of their “vaccinations.” Actually, they were being urged not to share photos of their vacations. You can tell where my mind was.

Second, I wrote that Dan Sullivan from Arkansas missed the vote on the COVID-19 bill. Dan Sullivan is a senator from Alaska, not Arkansas. This one gets blamed on my editor (I won’t say which one), who added the line to yesterday’s newsletter. Then it gets blamed on me for not catching it (Dan Sullivan is a very interesting politician who I know is from Alaska because I read about him a lot). AK is the state abbreviation for Alaska, and AR is the state abbreviation for Arkansas, and this can happen when abbreviations look alike and you’re in a hurry.

These are the 34th Tangle and 35th Tangle corrections in its 81-week existence and the first since… yesterday. I track corrections, and place them at the top of the newsletter, in an effort to maximize my transparency with readers.

Quick hits.

  1. The U.S. Senate looks poised to confirm former California attorney general Xavier Becerra as the next Health and Human Services secretary. Just four members of Biden’s Cabinet are still awaiting confirmation. (MSNBC)
  2. The House of Representatives is set to pass two of President Biden’s first immigration bills. One would enable U.S.-raised immigrant youths to earn permanent U.S. residence or citizenship. The other would allow undocumented agriculture workers a path to legal status for themselves and their families. (Associated Press)
  3. China plans to press the Biden administration to roll back Trump-era policies that limited the American sales to Chinese telecommunications companies and to remove visa restrictions on members of the Communist Party. (The Wall Street Journal)
  4. The U.S. intelligence community issued a rare warning that domestic terrorists “who are motivated by a range of ideologies and galvanized by recent political and societal events in the United States pose an elevated threat to the Homeland in 2021.” (DNI report)
  5. COVID-19 case numbers are not moving much as Americans get vaccinated. “The pace of new infections got better over the past week in 13 states, got worse in another 13, and held steady everywhere else,” according to Axios. (Axios)

What D.C. is talking about.

Anti-Asian crimes. The Tuesday night shooting spree at three Atlanta-area spas in which eight people were killed, including six Asian women, has called into focus a larger story of anti-Asian hate crimes across the country.

In the case of the Atlanta, Georgia, shootings, police have not identified a key motive. The man arrested for the crimes, Robert Long, said he was acting out of an attempt to eliminate his “temptation” tied to “sexual addiction,” according to police. Investigators have not ruled out racial animus as a motivating factor, but Long denied that was his motivation while in custody. He was a frequent customer at the massage parlors and carried out the attacks “as a form of vengeance,” according to The New York Times. All but one of the victims were women.

However, the shootings come at a time when news reports across the country are calling out increases in anti-Asian harassment and violence. In a report released before the shootings last week, Stop AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) Hate said they had received 3,795 reports of incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes between March of 2020 and February of 2021. From the report:

“Verbal harassment (68.1%) and shunning (20.5%) (i.e., the deliberate avoidance of Asian Americans) make up the two largest proportions of the total incidents reported. Physical assault (11.1%) comprises the third largest category of the total incidents. Civil rights violations — e.g., workplace discrimination, refusal of service, and being barred from transportation — account for 8.5% of the total incidents. Online harassment makes up 6.8% of the total incidents.”

Editor’s note: The report does not acknowledge that percentages sum to over 100%, but reported incidents likely fall in compound categories.

The Associated Press reported a similar uptick in crime:

Police in several major cities saw a sharp uptick in Asian-targeted hate crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. New York City went from three incidents to 27, Los Angeles from seven to 15, and Denver had three incidents in 2020 — the first reported there in six years.

There have been several other high-profile stories about anti-Asian crimes: An 84-year-old man died of his injuries after an attack in San Francisco, a 67-year-old man was attacked there around the same time, a family and their children were stabbed in Texas shortly after the pandemic began, and videos of elderly Asian-Americans being attacked in cities like New York have made the rounds on social media.

Many of these crimes have been tied to animosity toward Asians because of coronavirus (which researchers believe originated in China) or general anti-Asian sentiment. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the writing in response to these news stories.

What the right is saying.

The right has argued that we are witnessing a general rise in crime, that there are reasonable questions about the role white supremacy has played in these crimes, and that a lack of policing is part of the issue.

In The National Review, Jim Geraghty noted the difficulty of parsing the data, especially considering that groups like Stop AAPI Hate rely on self-reported data and have no historical “control” point to compare to, since they popped up at the beginning of the pandemic.

“It is also worth noting that a report that generated the frightening headline, ‘Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans Spiked by 150% in Major US Cities’ showed wildly different circumstances in different cities,” he wrote. “The report identified 122 incidents of anti-Asian-American hate crimes in 16 of the country’s most populous cities in 2020… In Cincinnati, the number of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans increased from zero in 2019 to one in 2020, and San Diego had the same figures. Chicago stayed level with two each year. Denver and Houston increased from zero to three. Washington, D.C., declined from six to three.

“Every crime is worthy of investigation and prosecution, and even one case of someone being targeted for a crime because of their race, religion, or heritage is one too many,” he added. “But in this situation, it appears that the existing spotty statistics are being shoehorned into place to support a narrative of a worsening crisis. The headline ‘Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans Spike in a Few US Cities, Rare in Others’ wouldn’t attract quite so much attention,” he said.

In the Washington Examiner, Tiana Lowe deconstructed the narrative that the crimes were tied to white supremacy or Donald Trump’s anti-China rhetoric.

“Even if the assailant was motivated by his desire to eradicate ‘temptation,’ such a sexualization of Asian-owned businesses constitutes its own sort of racism,” she wrote. “But even more concerning than the public and the media's rush to judgment over this attack is their willingness not just to ignore rampant discrimination against Asian Americans in education and attacks in the street but to whitewash this oppression… Why? Because the source of the surge in hate crimes isn't white supremacy. Not only are many prominent suspects black, but the culprit is actually the very sort of underpolicing the Left has been advocating for the past year.

“Of the 122 anti-Asian American hate crimes documented in our 16 most populous cities last year, more than 72% were in just six cities, and 23% were just in New York. What was going on in New York City and Los Angeles that wasn't going on in San Diego or Cincinnati (just one anti-Asian American hate crime apiece)?” she asked. “Furthermore, prominent serial assailants, such as Yahya Muslim, who allegedly attacked three Asian Americans in one day, and Antoine Watson, accused of killing an Asian man in broad daylight, are black. That hasn't stopped cable news hacks like Kurt Bardella from claiming on MSNBC without evidence that the recent surge in violence is motivated by white supremacy.”

What the left is saying.

The left says anti-Asian sentiment stoked by American nationalism and white supremacy needs to be addressed.

In The Washington Post, Alafair Burke asked “who will march for us?”

“The numbers don’t capture the ugliness of these attacks,” she said. “‘Go home,’ a man yelled while throwing a glass bottle at a woman placing her baby in a car seat, appending a racial slur to the insult. Another man kicked a dog and spat on its owner, saying, ‘Take your disease that’s ruining our country and go home.’ Scores of Asian American elders have been senselessly assaulted by random strangers on the street… Racism against Asian Americans often goes unrecognized and unchallenged because of stereotypes that depict Asian Americans as people who don’t need protection from abuse — or who don’t deserve it.

“And xenophobia and misogyny often intersect,” she added. “Less than a day after the appalling shootings in Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said the suspect cited ‘sexual addiction’ as his motivation and saw the spas he targeted as ‘a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.’ With every casual ‘me love you long time’ or ‘happy ending’ joke, our culture hypersexualizes and dehumanizes Asian American women, portraying us as victims while treating us as targets.”

In Mother Jones, Inae Oh expressed frustration over the hesitancy to call the shooting an act of racism.

“One can be cautious about what caused a man to kill people while still acknowledging that watching people who look like you die for no reason looks exactly like what it is,” she wrote. “But law enforcement officials made a specific choice in ignoring that and echoing the words of a killer. And their stress for caution before labeling Tuesday’s murders as racially motivated—while foregrounding the potential sexual nature of the investigation—runs the risk of falsely treating misogyny and racism as if they’re mutually exclusive, when in fact, overwhelming evidence has shown that the two toxic forces are often interwoven.

“The fact that Asian women make up 70 percent of the recent rise in anti-Asian attacks is further proof of the parallel traumas,” she added. “In the case of Asian sex workers, there’s really no separating the inherent racism rooted in a white man’s assertion that ‘sexual addiction’ prompted him to commit violence.”

My take.

Before we get into the specifics of this case, I want to briefly do what you’re not supposed to do in these situations and center myself. I remember vividly when I heard about the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shootings. It was gutting for a lot of reasons: I’m a Jew. Pittsburgh — the city where I went to college — is a place I love. I had been inside that synagogue before. And, worst of all, as I sent frantic text messages and emails to check in on friends and members of the Jewish community, I learned that a family member of one of those friends had been killed in the shooting.

You don’t have to identify with a minority group to understand the way that kind of moment works psychologically. If you’re a cookie-cutter white guy in American suburbia, it’d be a similar feeling to hearing that a mass shooting happened inside your favorite restaurant, at which you had dined just the night before. You feel sick, scared, lucky, ashamed you feel lucky and can’t help but re-run every moment around the attack in your head. It’s the kind of thing that stops you in your tracks.

I say all this as a preface to address my Asian readers living through this week: I just want to say I am thinking of you. I’m sending my love. And I’m sorry this is the world we have today.

There’s much we still don’t know about these attacks and more we will learn. Sometimes, as in the case of the Pulse nightclub shooting, our initial understanding of these events is woefully inaccurate and ends up being totally wrong (the shooter, in that case, was believed by the public to be targeting the LGBT community, though further investigations did little to support that narrative).

Other times, as in the case of the Charleston church shooting, our initial understanding falls short of the horrifying reality of the motivations behind what happened (the shooter, in that case, was believed by the public to be randomly targeting Black parishioners, but investigations revealed he was literally trying to start a race war).

On one side people are screaming that this attack is rooted in white supremacy, the sexualization of Asian women, the belittling of the Asian experience, and the demonization of countries like China (i.e. Trump calling coronavirus the “China virus” or “Kung flu” or writers like me being extremely critical of the Chinese Communist Party). My response to that side is: yes, you are probably right.

On the other side, people are screaming that this attack is the product of police not having the presence they need to have in these neighborhoods, that we know some of the perpetrators in high-profile cases have been Black, that we don’t yet understand the Atlanta shooter’s motives, and that given the data available we don’t have a great grasp of this purported “wave” of anti-Asian hate crimes. My response to that side is: yes, you are probably also right.

This isn’t bothsideism, it’s reality. It’s not as simple as white supremacy and it’s not as simple as crime in under-policed neighborhoods. The anti-Asian sentiment in our country (much like anti-Semitism, actually) can come from across the political and racial spectrum for a variety of reasons. If you want to get really nuanced, you can throw in studies showing Christian nationalism (which exists amongst white and Black Americans) is the greatest predictor of xenophobic, anti-Asian feelings tied to coronavirus.

All this is without even touching on the fact that the shooter reportedly purchased the gun he used legally, the same day, with no waiting period, then committed exactly the kind of crime waiting periods are supposed to prevent.

For now, it’s okay to look at all these things and see them all as factors — with various weights and importance — that need to be considered. Because they all are.

Regardless of which narrative is most “true,” the reality is Asians in our country are going to have to spend the next few weeks digesting horrifying news reports, unsettling studies and traumatic videos telling them that their fellow citizens hate them. The least the rest of us can do is try to balance that by showing them love, camaraderie and understanding. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a piece that embraces the nuance of this moment, I’d highly recommend Jay Caspian Kang’s writing in The New York Times Magazine.

Your questions, answered.

Q: How does the U.S. compare to other countries (especially European ones) in terms of [administering] vaccines?

— Anonymous, Herndon, Virginia

Tangle: So far, we’re crushing it. According to Bloomberg, we’ve administered (which means injected) 113 million doses. Globally, the total is just over 400 million, meaning we make up more than a quarter of the global total. America makes up about 4.25% of the world’s population, but we’ve administered about 30% of the vaccines. In total, 73.7 million people in America have already gotten one dose of the vaccine.

On a per-capita basis, we’re doing similarly well. Israel has given out 105 doses per 100 people, leading the way across the planet (the number of doses exceeds the number of people because most vaccines administered so far require two shots). The New York Times just did a great podcast about the vaccine rollout in Israel.

Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Monaco, the United Kingdom (Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), Bahrain and Chile all have administered more per capita doses than we have — the U.S. comes in at eighth with 34 doses per 100 people. We’re also seventh in the per capita rate of people who have gotten at least one dose. Of those seven countries, we’re by far the largest and most populous. Our daily rate of doses administered is 2.4 million. The next closest in raw numbers is India, with 1.5 million. Then the European Union at 1.2 million.

Compared to the EU, which has given at least one dose to 8.2% of the population, our 22% rate looks extremely impressive.

All in all, the vaccine rollout in the U.S. right now — even if it feels slow and chaotic to many of us — has been a resounding success compared to the rest of the world.

Reminder: You can ask a question, too. All you have to do is reply to this email or fill out this form.

A story that matters.

President Joe Biden is planning the first major federal tax hike since 1993 to help pay for his long-term economic plan — one that includes a major infrastructure bill and climate change reforms. The plan will include a suite of tax hikes focused on corporations and the rich, including, according to Bloomberg, proposals containing the following goals:

  • Raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%
  • Paring back tax preferences for so-called pass-through businesses, such as limited-liability companies or partnerships
  • Raising the income tax rate on individuals earning more than $400,000
  • Expanding the estate tax’s reach
  • A higher capital-gains tax rate for individuals earning at least $1 million annually. (Biden on the campaign trail proposed applying income-tax rates, which would be higher)

The plan could be Biden’s first real test to keep his thin Democratic majorities together, but a tax increase has been deemed necessary in order to pay for his proposals. (Bloomberg, subscription)


  • $2.1 trillion. The estimated amount of revenue Biden’s campaign tax plan (above) could raise in a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center.
  • 100 million. The number of vaccine doses the Biden administration is expected to have given by the end of the day today.
  • 40. The number of days early that milestone will come, 60 days into Biden’s promise to get it done in the first 100 days of his administration.
  • 2.1 million. The number of signatures on a recall request of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, all but ensuring that he will have to defend his governorship this year.
  • 11 of 12. The number of Trump to Biden swing voters who said they were concerned about inflation and the national debt, according to an Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus group.
  • 0 of 12. The number of those same voters who said they regretted their vote for Biden so far, according to an Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus group.

Don’t forget.

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Have a nice day.

Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered dozens of fragmented biblical texts, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, inside a hard-to-access cave in the Judean desert. The scrolls are around 2,000 years old, and were found alongside a 6,000-year-old skeleton and a large basket estimated to be more than 10,000 years old. They feature lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum. “These finds are not just important to our own cultural heritage, but to that of the entire world,” Avi Cohen, the CEO of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, said. “The scroll fragments containing biblical texts, the coins and the additional finds from the Second Temple Period that were found in this unique project directly attest to the Jewish heritage of the region and the inseparable bond between the Jewish cultural activities and our place in this land.” I really like geeking out on this stuff. You can too. (The Washington Post)

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