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Hate crimes against Asians in the U.S.: Two expert views

  • March 19, 2021
  • , Nikkei , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

Hate crimes against Asians in the U.S. have become a major social issue. U.S. President Biden has expressed concern, saying that “vicious hate crimes” against Asians “must stop.” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Japanese living in the U.S. through consular emails to take precautions. Nikkei asked two experts about the background of the issue and how the Japanese government may respond.


Explosion of pent-up dissatisfaction

Toyo University professor Kumi Yokoe


Crimes against Asians are on the rise in the U.S. and Europe. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, there is general hostility against China, where the disease was first confirmed. In Japan, where there are relatively few cases compared with the U.S. and Europe, those who have been infected are subject to prejudice.


The series of hate crimes do not seem to stem from a political divide. It is unclear whether there are trends in the race or ethnicity of the perpetrators.


The reason Asians are broadly targeted may be because the crimes were committed on an impulse, not in response to ideology. Perpetrators of many large-scale riots in the U.S. are often obsessed by the idea they “will become minorities in society.”


There has not been a sudden increase of Asians in American society. It may be just that there has been a succession of individuals in urban areas whose pent-up discontentment has exploded.


Former President Trump’s words have had impact

University of Tokyo professor Kazuto Suzuki


Stereotyping by race and religion is not just a problem in the U.S., but the thinking that violence is permissible is a phenomenon specific to the U.S.


The fact that former President Trump called the novel coronavirus the “China virus” is highly related to the current situation. Simplistic thinking, that such undesirable actions as lockdowns and mask wearing is China’s fault, is connected to the violence.


Former President Trump’s supporters tend to be sympathetic to hate crimes. It is troublesome, since a Biden administration crackdown on violence could provoke fresh disturbances. 


Asian representatives in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures are drawing up legislation for the strict enforcement [of laws against hate crimes]. The Japanese government may indirectly support this effort by cooperating on deterring crime.

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