Everyone knows that there is currently an ongoing wave of white-supremacist attacks against Asian Americans—but there isn’t. Following a genuine rise in violent crimes targeting Asians in 2020, major media outlets such as CNN have been consistently beating the drum of “pro-Trump” anti-Asian violence for months, while large urban marches have been organized around the theme of blacks and Asians together taking on the “white supremacy” allegedly threatening both communities. A few hours going through relevant data, however, puts the lie to this narrative.
Violence against Asian Americans is in fact a diverse and majority-minority affair, with the 2019 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report showing that 27.5 percent of violent criminals targeting an Asian victim are black and only 24.1 percent are white; my own analysis of a set of more than 100 recent high-profile cases reaches similar conclusions. Further, textual analysis of past writing from publications such as the New York Times and California’s SFGate indicates that this basic pattern of crime has persisted for decades and is visible in recent attacks not only on Asians but on Jews as well.
Still, the idea that violence against Asians is the work of violent Trump supporters and fellow travelers—MAGA-hatted Proud Boys and the like—has become axiomatic. On March 18, 2021, CNN.com’s Stephen Collinson provided a comprehensive summary in a piece containing distinct subheads labeled “THE WHITE SUPREMACIST THREAT” and “HOW MUCH IS TRUMP TO BLAME?” Collinson summed up the nature of today’s violence against Asians accurately (“lives being taken”) before going on to describe Asian Americans as facing “a torrent of dangerous and racially motivated rhetoric by national figures on a cultural crusade” and as experiencing “the agony of yet another minority group left to question its place in America…amid cresting white nationalism.”
He quoted Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen (“a Democrat”), who described 2020’s violent-crime environment as “the result of xenophobic messaging around the pandemic by the former president.” He cited the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum’s Vivien Tsou, who argued that Asians are being targeted “by the same forces of hate endured by Black Americans and that were evident in the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol on January 6.” In this environment, Collinson wrote, “it’s immaterial whether the accused killer in the Atlanta spa shootings admits to a racist motivation.”
This sort of talk has hardly been confined to one journalist, however influential. The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald points out that “the New York Times ran front-page story after front-page story linking [an anti-Asian murder] to…COVID propaganda,” while the Los Angeles Times included a verbatim quote from a California protest organizer who said, “It’s important for Black and Asian communities to work together on this because, at the end of the day, it’s about dismantling white supremacy and speaking out against white racism.”
Empirically, this is very close to nonsense. Federal crime data provide little or no support for these claims.
THE MOST RECENT Bureau of Justice Statistics report to include Asian Americans in victim and offender categories preceded the COVID pandemic, but it was released more than two years into the Trump administration. It paints a diverse portrait of anti-Asian crime. As of 2018—not long after the rapper YG released a song (“Meet the Flockers”) advising would-be robbers to target “Chinese neighborhoods” because “they don’t believe in bank accounts”—27.5 percent of the 182,300 violent attackers of Asians were black, 24.1 percent were white, 21.4 percent were either Hispanic or “other”/mixed, and well under 25 percent were Asian.
To illustrate how remarkable that last statistic is—the statistic that suggests Asians are mostly safe with other Asians—consider that 62.1 percent of all attackers of whites during the same year were white, while 70.3 percent of all attackers of blacks were black. The huge majority of crime is intra-racial, especially since the person most likely to kill you is, generally speaking, your husband or wife.
The most recent hate-crime data (released in 2020) tell the same story—of a diverse wave of violence against a small and successful community. Of 205 hate attackers of Asians, 95 (46.3 percent) were confirmed as white, while 30 were black, seven Latino, 18 members of racially mixed groups, and fully 70 not conclusively identified as members of any one race.
My own data tell a similar and, if anything, less narrative-friendly story. I put together an Excel spreadsheet summarizing victim and offender characteristics for more than 100 of the most widely reported 2020 and 2021 attacks on Asian Americans, such as the brutal March 29 beating of a Chinese grandmother in broad daylight in Manhattan and the killing of South Asian Uber Eats driver Mohammad Anwar in the nation’s capital six days earlier. As of the time of this article’s publication, my data included 23 assaults for 2021 in which the attacker (or all known attackers) was black, 22 in which the race of the attacker(s) remains unknown, 12 in which the attacker was white, five in which the assault was committed by either a mixed-race individual or a racially mixed group of individuals, five in which the attacker was Hispanic, and one in which the attacker was Asian.1
Across the entire data set, 41 attackers or groups of attackers were black, 37 were of unknown race, 24 were white, 10 were biracial or part of mixed groups (some of which included attackers listed as being of unknown race), seven were Hispanic, and two were Asian—with one of these “Asian” suspects being South Asian or Middle Eastern.
All told, only 40 percent (24 out of 60) of the attack suspects conclusively identified by race happened to be white. A black man named Brandon Elliot—who was on parole for killing his own mother—was responsible for the Manhattan beating, while two African-American females aged 13 and 15 committed the crimes against the Uber driver on video.
The data are unmistakable. Asian Americans are not being attacked by “white supremacists” but by a very diverse group of thugs.
Reading through older news stories with a discerning eye indicates that this basic pattern of crime has existed for some time. Back in 2010, the SFGate ran a detailed seven-page story headlined “Black Attacks on Asians: Racism or Opportunity?” That piece noted that at least four high-profile attacks on Asians by black Americans, or clashes between the two groups, had occurred in just the few months before the article ran. These crimes included the beating death of Tian Sheng Yu (aged 59), an incident in which an 83-year-old man was kicked to death by youths, and the tossing of 52-year-old “Mrs. Cheng” from a Muni subway platform onto a live and active set of train tracks. Decades before the SFGate piece, in 1992, the New York Times published a lengthy article focused on the often-violent harassment of Asians by both blacks and urban whites—which outlined such incidents as the ugly year-long blockade of Korean grocery stores in Brooklyn by black residents and the brutal murder of five Vietnamese children by an armed Caucasian lunatic in Stockton, California.
ASIANS ARE HARDLY alone in being a high-performing “model minority” or “middleman minority” frequently targeted for violence by goonish fellow citizens motivated by jealousy, out-group bias, or the plain desire for folding paper money. Jews have the same history. While breaking Jewish Americans out of the larger “white” category in the context of all violent crimes is next to impossible, it is undisputed that they are one of the populations most targeted for serious hate crimes on an annual basis—making up 11.7 percent of all hate-crime targets (835 out of 7,120) and 60 percent of all targets for hate criminals motivated by their victim’s religion (835 out of 1,419) during the fairly typical year of 2018. (This is a phenomenon so consistent and remarkable that I have written about it for COMMENTARY on at least one previous occasion.2)
As with Asians, the attackers of Jews are a diverse bunch. During 2018, 258 anti-Jewish hate criminals—involved with, for example, incidents of graffiti or “knock-out game” attacks—were not definitively identified by race, while 179 were white, 41 were black, and at least 14 distinct incidents involved multiracial and sometimes large groups of individuals attacking a Jewish target. During the spike in violence against Jews on the East Coast during 2019, many attackers (although by no means all) turned out to be people of color—such as Grafton Thomas, the machete-wielding bandit who stabbed five people inside the in-home shul of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg after Googling “Why did Hitler hate the Jews (?),” and Tiffany Harris, who was arrested on December 29 for punching a Jewish woman after being released on bail the previous day for the crime of slapping and cursing at three Jewish women.
Describing this sort of thing as “white supremacy” is stupid. First, and notably, many or most of the attackers of Asians (and Jews) are not white. While modern academic descendants of the ancient Greek sophists do on occasion try to argue that black is white, the idea of “black white supremacists” sounds to most normal people like a skit from Chapelle’s Show. Even if the argument, more seriously, is that the racial biases of whites somehow “spill over” to people of color and make us hate one another, quite obvious questions arise. Why exactly did the effect of this secondary bias peak last year, at least in the case of Asians, as opposed to any previous year that did not feature a pandemic and massive police pullbacks? Why do people of color attack Asians more often than do the whites who allegedly have taught us how to hate? For that matter, how do probably 98 percent of minority Americans, along with 98 to 99 percent of white Americans, manage to overcome this alleged conditioning and not commit racist crimes against anyone at all?
These questions matter, for those of us in the Asian and Jewish (and black!) communities who live in cities and don’t want our grandmothers robbed. The solutions that might logically follow from assuming the driving force behind urban crime is white supremacy, such as defunding “biased” police forces and giving the money saved to local Black Lives Matter chapters to fight racism, are almost diametrically opposed to those that follow from assuming that the driving force is ill intent on the part of a diverse gang of thugs. What we know is that black, white, and Latino goons all commit crimes against vulnerable populations such as older Asian Americans, and that the solution to this problem is the state harshly taking on crime. Non-racist but highly active police patrols in neighborhoods where Asian Americans live and work will do more to make Asian Lives Matter than all the protest signs in the world.
1 As with virtually all of my numerical material and original research content, this document is available to anyone who wishes to contact me at [email protected] and request it.
2 “No, There Is No Coming Race War,” February 2020
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