Hate crimes against Asian Americans in the United States rose 17 percent in 1996, according to a report to be released today, which cites incidents in Northern California ranging from physical attacks in San Francisco housing projects to slurs at Stanford University.
The survey by the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, which includes the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus, documented 534 incidents that were racially motivated last year, compared to 458 in 1995.
And while such episodes dropped in California to 188 from 204 the previous year, they increased slightly in Northern California, from 93 to 102. The study, which the authors plan to present today to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, is based on data gathered by law enforcement, social and legal agencies and media accounts.
“The statistics reflect increasing anti-immigrant sentiment in politics and in communities undergoing dramatic demographic shifts,” said Victor Hwang, executive director of the Asian Law Caucus. “The Sunset District (of San Francisco) is an example.”
Interviews with more than 20 Asian Americans merchants in the Sunset — whose businesses were defaced with swastikas earlier this year — revealed a pattern of racial intimidation and hate crimes that began in 1996, according to the report. Community pressure resulted in a pledge by San Francisco police to increase bilingual patrols and cultural sensitivity training in the Sunset.
The report also cited continued growth of hate crimes against Asian Americans in Bay Area schools and San Francisco public housing projects.
“Many Vietnamese families residing in San Francisco housing projects were subjected to repeated beatings, threats, racial epithets and assaults with deadly weapons by neighbors,” according to the report.
Such incidents were not relegated to low-income neighborhoods. At Stanford University, racial slurs were scrawled across a computer screen and inside a refrigerator in the Asian American Activities Center, the report said.
Hwang said underreporting of hate crimes remains a significant problem because many law-enforcement agencies are overwhelmed with other crimes or fear that documenting racism will bring unfavorable publicity to their cities.
San Francisco, Hwang said, is one city that has given hate crimes a high priority: The city recorded 38 hate crimes against Asian Americans in 1996. But Hwang said none of the 34 other Northern California law-enforcement agencies surveyed by the study’s authors reported more than two hate crimes.
Unless law-enforcement agencies take a greater interest in the issue, the report predicts attacks against Asian Americans will continue to increase in communities where their numbers are growing.
Sylvia Kim was devastated when she was attacked earlier this year. On May 4, the 62-year-old Korean American woman was thrown against a wall and kicked by a clean-cut Caucasian man in his 20s after she walked out of a bookstore in San Francisco’s Union Square. The assailant remains at large.
“He was yelling, ‘My mother is not Chinese, but I know that you are,’ ” said Kim, who was hospitalized for a week and had to have a hip replaced. “I’ve lived in this country 50 years. I never thought such a thing could happen.”
Written by: Aurelio Rojas
September 9, 1997