In the past two weeks, Stop AAPI Hate, a project to track hate crimes against Asian Americans, has received a stunning 1,135 reports of targeted harassment and abuse.
Many of the attacks are described in heartbreaking detail: “My kids were at the park with their dad (who is white.) An older white man pushed my seven-year-old daughter off of her bike and yelled at my husband to ‘take your hybrid kids home because they’re making everyone sick,'” reads one of several comments included in the most recent weekly report published by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action, which collaborated on Stop AAPI Hate.
In late March, the FBI’s Houston field office reportedly distributed a warning to law enforcement agencies across the nation. “The FBI assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States,” said the intelligence report obtained by ABC News. “The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.”
The FBI wouldn’t confirm that report to Adweek, but its national press office said field offices do routinely share information and threat assessments with law enforcement.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to remind everyone that any violent criminal act against any person because of their race, ethnicity or national origin is a hate crime,” said the FBI in an email to Adweek. “This includes violence toward Asian Americans or individuals from East Asian countries. The FBI will use all authority granted to us by federal law to investigate and hold those who commit violent acts accountable for their actions. The FBI remains committed to our mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.”
Anecdotally, Asian Americans—including those in the ad world—have already seen all the evidence they need.
That’s why multicultural marketing firm Admerasia has launched a new project, Racism Is Contagious, which features a map of confirmed incidents that allows users to see the way hate has spread across the country, particularly in major metropolitan areas. Those incidents appear on the map as glowing pink clusters; zoom in closer, and the clusters become dots showing multiple locations where hate attacks took place. Most of the mapped incidents link to news reports from reliable major media outlets.
The campaign was created with the help of Asian American media outlet Nextshark; anti-harassment group Hollaback!; the Asian American Advertising Federation; and a host of other allied groups all helping to aggregate and map incoming data on the hate incidents. Admerasia also produced a powerful video that shows some of the disturbing attacks taking place.
Visualizing the data to help identify hot spots is one of the primary goals of the campaign. The creators were inspired by backend technology currently used to track the global spread of COVID-19 and the coronavirus, and aim to “build a data analysis dashboard that can generate real-time statistics.”
“In collecting this information, we hope to create a community tool that can help identify flare-up zones that might require more direct action from law enforcement through this publicly accessible resource,” said a spokesperson for Racism Is Contagious. “We are partnering with #hateisavirus to further humanize these numbers through real stories. These are people who are impacted.”
Most of the groups involved had been working separately on the issue. The #hateisavirus campaign employs influencers and community members to speak out against coronavirus-fueled discrimination on social media. It also raises funds through merchandise sales to support small Asian American businesses that are struggling in the pandemic economy.
BetterBrave, another sponsor of Racism Is Contagious, is an organization that addresses workplace sexual harassment and discrimination. NextShark has been regularly reporting on hate incidents since the virus began spreading—along with the accompanying anti-Asian sentiments.
In coming together to warehouse information, the allied groups behind Racism Is Contagious hope to increase the visibility of the issue—and lead more people to reputable resources for help.
“Ultimately, we want to empower those who have been victims to understand that they have support,” said the spokesperson.
“Our next development is to compile more robust resources and collaboration with human rights organizations and other allies in the cause,” the spokesperson for Racism Is Contagious said. “We want people to know their rights, understand if they have been subject to a hate crime, and what actions can be taken. The story doesn’t stop here. There are people out there that can help. Change can happen.”