Young Asian Americans in Texas reported hate incidents at higher rates in U.S., data show

Hojun Choi
Austin American-Statesman

Data from Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based watchdog group that tracks hate incidents against people of Asian descent, show that young Texans are reporting cases at higher rates compared with the rest of the country.

The group, made up of college professors and activists on the West Coast, started collecting reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Between March 2020 and the end of February, 3,795 people reported that they were targets of racially charged incidents using the group's online form, which is available in 11 Asian languages. 

Those reports included 101 from Texas, which had the fourth-highest number of incidents, behind California, New York and Washington, according to the group's most recent report.

Sara Kim,  left, and Kathy Phan, of Austin, hold up posters as they listen to speaker during the Stop Asian Hate Rally & Vigil, held Saturday, April 17, 2021, at Huston-Tillotson University in  Austin, Texas.

The three ethnic groups that were most heavily represented in reports nationwide and in Texas were, in order, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Although the data did not detail how many of those cases were from Austin, Stop AAPI Hate has said that reports came in from all major cities in Texas. 

About 21% of the cases from Texas were reported by people 17 years old or younger. Across the country, 12.6% of the reports came from the same age group. Additionally, the watchdog organization said 16.2% of the reports in Texas occurred at schools and universities, compared with 7% nationwide.

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Austin school officials weigh in amid reports of anti-Asian hate

Austin school board member Arati Singh, who is of Indian descent, said while it is hard to decipher specific trends from Stop AAPI Hate's data on Texas because of the relatively small number of reports, she believes a significant number of hate incidents remain unreported. 

"I can’t really say why it might be happening, but what I do know is that it’s being underreported everywhere, so I would say one thing that we need to do as a school district, and what we are doing as a school district is talking about it," Singh said. 

In the 2019-20 school year, 3,572 students in the district identified themselves as Asian American or Pacific Islander. 

After the spa shootings in Atlanta, in which six of the eight who were slain were Asian women, Singh said the district reached out to students' families through emails and automated calls to express support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

"I was really proud of that, and I think we’re going to have to keep putting messages out like that so that our Asian American community feels comfortable standing up and saying that this is not OK," she said. 

As a parent, Singh said she is also concerned about racist bullying that occurs over social media, as well as online communication platforms such as Discord. 

"I want our young people to know that counts too, and I want them to know that it’s OK to report those things," Singh said. "Especially during a pandemic, when many of them are not seeing each other face to face, and there is so much socializing happening online."

In March, three middle school teachers at the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district near Dallas were put on administrative leave after they distributed a quiz containing racist stereotypes related to Chinese culture. 

Michael Wei addresses the crowd at a rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday protesting violence and hate against people who are of Asian descent.

Advocates call for more action to stop anti-Asian hate

Stop AAPI Hate on Wednesday called on school officials to implement measures to ensure safety for Asian American students as they get ready to resume in-person classes.

The organization called for an anonymous reporting system for students and called for anti-racism and ethnic studies courses in the curriculum, adding that faculty members should be trained to address anti-Asian hate and discrimination. 

“Families should not have to choose between their children’s well-being and their education, yet this is a decision many AAPI families across the nation are being forced to make,” Stop AAPI Hate said in a statement. “The choice of many AAPI parents to keep their children home amid the return to in-person learning shows that concrete action is necessary to ensure our students feel safe and protected from racism while at school.“

While Texas had a larger rate of incidents reported from educational settings when compared with other parts of the country, places of business were the most frequently cited location for reported incidents. 

More than a third of all reported incidents nationwide (35.4%) and in Texas (35.8%) occurred at businesses, according to Stop AAPI Hate. 

Alex Tân, who owns the Chinatown retail shopping center in North Austin, said he has recently doubled security at his property in response to rising reports of vandalism against businesses owned by people of Asian descent. 

Tân said he has heard of people accosting patrons and said a rock was thrown through a window of one of the businesses.

He said multiple tenants have expressed worries about vandalism to their businesses and fear for customers, but he added that he feels fortunate that no major attacks have occurred on his property. 

“We’re open for everybody, not only just for people who are Asian. Everybody is welcome," Tân said. "There are some tenants who worry a little bit, but we do the best we can to watch for things like that. That’s all we can do, you know?"

Do Austin police track anti-Asian crimes?

Pooja Sethi, like Singh, said Stop AAPI Hate's data, while it may be incomplete, shows the dire need for a more local reporting system. She and other Asian American activists in Austin have been pushing local law enforcement and the Travis County district attorney's office to track the trend more accurately. 

While she sees Stop AAPI Hate's reporting system as necessary, Sethi said she is concerned that policymakers will assume that the numbers represent the full picture of racism and discrimination experienced by different populations in the Asian community. 

She said she would like to see a system that goes beyond pandemic-related hate toward Asian Americans and a more holistic approach to tracking incidents. 

"Stop AAPI Hate is doing a great job, but it is really hard to get into every single community across Texas, and we can't depend on one organization and put the burden on them to get all the data for every single municipality," Sethi said. 

Sethi said she would like to see work by Austin police and the city's equity office to pursue a reporting system for Asian communities in the city.

"Really, this needs to be on local government and law enforcement to do this, and it doesn't need to be the efforts of one group within the AAPI community," she said.