Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 5 April 2021


Asian-Americans Feel the Hate

In the woke narrative, it’s all about Trump, Covid-19 and white supremacy.

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Amid the growing attacks on Asian-Americans, the recent crimes of Brandon Elliot and Robert Aaron Long bear particular attention. The way these two prominent cases are being reported in the press illuminates some of the holes in the new narrative of “hate.”

Start with Mr. Elliot’s brutal Midtown Manhattan beatdown of a 65-year old Filipina while shouting at her, “You don’t belong here.” Mr. Elliot did this while out on lifetime parole for murdering his mother in 2002. Meanwhile in Atlanta, Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, has confessed to gunning down eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at three area massage parlors.

In the dominant narrative, these attacks are but the latest manifestations of a system built for white supremacy. If Asian-Americans find themselves attacked, the Biden White House explains in a memo, it’s because of pols who called Covid-19 names like “Wuhan flu” and thus “stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes.”

At best this narrative is highly misleading. Messrs. Elliot and Long are living examples why.


Start with Mr. Long, who told police he shot up those massage parlors to remove sexual temptation. He denied he killed the women because they were Asian. Perhaps evidence to the contrary will appear, but as yet it hasn’t.

That hasn’t stopped almost every press report from lumping Atlanta in with all the other attacks deliberately targeting Asian-Americans, or from implying it’s somehow Mr. Trump’s fault, or both. A classic of the genre was a March 19 New York Times piece about the Atlanta killings under the headline “Racism and Sexism Shadow Many Interactions for Asian-American Women.” It checked all the boxes: “racialized misogyny,” “the Trump administration repeatedly emphasized China’s connection to the Covid-19 pandemic,” “capitalism based on racial exploitation”—even while conceding, much further down in the piece, that “very little is known about the motives of the Atlanta gunman.”

Meanwhile, the woke obsession with race and hate works to diminish both the crime and the specific facts surrounding it. Is the murder of eight innocent people any less heinous if the motivation wasn’t race hatred?

Mr. Elliot’s crime is an even tougher fit for the white-supremacy narrative because the 38-year-old attacker is African-American. What makes him particularly embarrassing is that his example raises the larger issue of black-on-Asian crime, which the narrative’s champions are desperate to suppress or ignore.

In a thoughtful March 19 piece for the Weekly Dish on how debilitating this is for news coverage, Andrew Sullivan cites the Justice Department’s 2019 Criminal Victimization report to note that “of those committing violence against Asians, you discover that 24 percent such attacks are committed by whites; 24 percent are committed by fellow Asians, 7 percent by Hispanics; and 27.5 percent by African-Americans.”

Five days later, a Voice of America article put it this way: “In New York City, where anti-Asian hate crime soared nearly nine-fold in 2020 over the year before, only two of the 20 people arrested last year in connection with these attacks were white, according to New York Police Department data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Eleven were African Americans, six were white Hispanics and one was a Black Hispanic.”

Assaults on Asian-Americans cannot easily be squeezed into a progressive narrative of white supremacy. Moreover, criminal attacks on Asian-Americans were going on long before Mr. Trump and Covid-19 arrived on the scene.

As for the Asian-American community, which is itself highly diverse, it is far from monolithic in its reaction. On one side, there are left-leaning outfits such as Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks hate incidents and appears all-in for the narrative. The outfit is the creation of other groups such as Chinese for Affirmative Action, one of the several Asian-American organizations to endorse Proposition 16, last year’s failed ballot initiative to overturn California’s ban on race preferences.

On the other side, there is a growing worry among Asian-Americans about what identity politics and the progressive narrative about race means for them. Last week some of these advocacy groups announced a new coalition, whose first demand is for the Biden Justice Department to reinstate the lawsuit against Yale for using race preferences to discriminate against Asian-American applicants—another issue progressives would prefer to ignore. 

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