Racist Attacks on the Rise Since COVID-19 Outbreak, Study Says

ID: two people wearing masks walking down a street. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, racist attacks have been on the rise.
Nearly four in 10 adults in the U.S. say it has become more common for people to share racist views about Asians and Black Americans since the pandemic started, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. (Tee Cee / Flickr)

From micro-aggressions and racial profiling to police brutality and outright physical violence, racism has always been part of being born Black and/or Asian in America.

However, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S, there has been an even higher rise in racial tension and outright discrimination against Black and Asian Americans. Nearly four in 10 adults in the U.S. believe it has become more common for people to share racist views about Asians and Black Americans since the pandemic started, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center.

While racism against Asian-Americans is nothing new, it seems as though the coronavirus outbreak and its alleged Chinese origin has given anti-Asian racists a reason to be more open and bold with their views and attacks on people of Asian ancestry. Fifty-eight percent of the 278 Asian adults that participated in the Pew Research study expressed it was “more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views about people who are Asian than it was before the coronavirus outbreak.”

This rise in anti-Asian rhetoric goes beyond financial and medical matters. Pew Research also found that, since the outbreak:

  • a large portion of Asian American adults have reported “negative experiences” because of their race and/or ethnicity;
  • 39 percent of Asian adults reported people acting uncomfortable around them;
  • 31 percent had been “subject to [racist] slurs or jokes”; and
  • 26 percent report fearing someone might physically attack or threaten them.

And that fear is not without validity: Back in March, the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action, in an effort to help “raise awareness of the attacks Asian Americans are experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic,” collected and reviewed over 1,100 reports of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans since the outbreak first hit the U.S.

The final report released by the San Fransisco-based advocacy group revealed some disturbing figures: Almost 100 instances of hate and discrimination have been reported daily, with two-thirds reporting verbal harassment, 2.2 percent reporting online harassment, 4.6 percent reporting discrimination in the workplace, and 10.0 percent reporting physical assault.


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As we know from the recent Black Lives Matter protests in response to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor (in whose case the three officers involved in her death have yet to be arrested or prosecuted) and others—as well as the continued documented harassment of Americans of color—discrimination during coronavirus is still an ongoing problem.

In fact, that same Pew Research study also found that a large portion of Black Americans have also reported “negative experiences” because of the color of their skin since the outbreak began.

According to Pew:

  • 38 percent of Black adults report people acting uncomfortable around them;
  • 21 percent report having been subject to racist slurs or jokes; and
  • 20 percent report that they “feared might threaten or physically attack them.”

Mirroring the rise in racist attacks against Asian Americans, there has been a huge surge in reports of racist attacks on Black Americans, particularly by law enforcement. According to Statista, a reported 778 Black Americans were shot to death by U.S police alone between from 2017 to 2020.

In addition, the rate of fatal shootings by police officers among Black Americans has been far higher than that for any other race as of July 2020, sitting at 31 fatal police shootings per million in the population.

While COVID-19 didn’t directly cause racial discrimination, its effects are intimately linked to racism, and it’s clear that these racially motivated attacks and treatment of Black and Asian Americans will continue to be an issue for many in this country. The only question now is: What are we going to do about it?


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About

Sarah Rosenberg is an intern at Ms. Magazine. She graduated from Los Angeles Pierce College in June 2020. She holds an Associate of Arts for Transfer degree in Journalism and two Associates of Arts Degrees for Arts and Humanities, and Social and Behavioral Science, respectively. She has previously worked at Pierce College's Bull Magazine and Roundup Newspaper.