Aliya Kuerban’s father chose to ride a bus instead of the faster subway to go to Chinatown in Manhattan. It was the spring of 2021 and he had seen the reports of recent attacks on Asian Americans in New York City. He thought the bus would be safer.
But his change of routine didn’t stop his fear from coming true. The man, 82 at the time, was pushed to the ground after getting off the bus. He struggled to get up until others helped him.
Even more than a year later, Kuerban teared up as she recalled the incident: “Just thinking about how powerless he was and at an advanced age.”
Kuerban, a Molloy University associate professor, was one of seven panelists to discuss a newly released survey on anti-Asian sentiments’ impact on the community during the pandemic. The survey showed, among other highlights, that one out of four respondents nationally reported having changed their daily routine due to fears of anti-Asian threats or attacks.
The Wednesday event at Hofstra University was hosted by the Asian American Institute for Research and Engagement, a Syosset-based nonprofit created in March. HarrisX, a market research company, conducted the poll. More than 1,100 adults who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander from across the nation responded to the online survey from Sept. 9 through Sept. 18. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
As she listened to the findings, Kuerban wondered if the survey fully captured the extent of discrimination the Asian American community faced during the pandemic. Her father, an immigrant from China, spoke little English and would not have been able to participate in the English-only poll.
“Even though the data reported is appalling … my gut feeling is the actual numbers are much bigger,” she said in an interview. “This is not fully reflecting what is going on.”
The survey noted barriers to reporting, including language issues, fear of repercussions and lack of confidence in the criminal justice system.
Hate incidents targeting Asian people spiked during the pandemic. New York City police reported a surge from three anti-Asian hate incidents in 2019 to 132 in 2021. As of June 28, the number was 51 this year.
STOP AAPI HATE, a coalition that collects self-reported incidents nationwide against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in July that it received more than 11,000 reports of hate incidents from March 2020 through March 2022. Two-thirds of them were verbal harassment.
Some advocates and experts tied the rise in anti-Asian crime to geopolitical tensions and the rhetoric of elected officials who repeatedly called the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, the "Chinese virus."
Among the findings:
- About three out of five respondents, or 58%, said they’ve experienced some form of discrimination based on their race or ethnicity.
- Nearly two in three, or 63%, said they are not confident justice would be served if they reported a hate crime.
- Just more than half, 51%, said race relations in the country are getting worse.
“These numbers are not a shock. We know how much anti-Asian hate there is out there,” said Farrah Mozawalla, founder and CEO of the institute. “These numbers help validate the concerns of our community and will hopefully lead to advocacy.”
Local community and business leaders in the panel discussion Wednesday called for greater representation in leadership roles in government and corporations. Some noted the urgency of building a coalition.
“We need to start collectively to get it together,” said Gagandeep Singh, of Westbury, a board member of the institute. “Accountability starts with us. … When we don't come together collectively as a community, we fail ourselves.”
Kavita Shah, an area manager for business banking at JPMorgan Chase, said she would like to see changes down the road.
“My hope is that five years from today, we see the poll’s findings reverse drastically where Asian American hate is not a topic to be discussed,” she said.