America’s latest era of racial turmoil has been a boon to many organizations. Black Lives Matter is merely the highest-profile group to claim the mantle of authority on racism, while bringing in millions of dollars in contributions. Stop AAPI Hate (AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander), purporting to be the leading authority on “anti-Asian hate crimes,” has followed BLM’s model, promoting the story that America is racist toward Asians. Its motto reflects that mission: it seeks to “advance equity, justice, and power by dismantling systemic racism.”
Stop AAPI Hate’s first cause for suspicion is its loftiness. Asians in America don’t need a victimhood narrative: they are, in broad demographic terms, flourishing in the United States. This does not mean, of course, that prejudice against them does not exist. It certainly does, but AAPI and like-minded groups have little or nothing to say about its most substantive manifestations. To the extent that Asian Americans are experiencing racism, it’s either coming directly from progressive elites (as in college admissions policies that have discriminated against Asian students) or is only selectively discussed by progressive elites (as in the case of violence against Asians, which the Left is interested in blaming only on whites). What Stop AAPI Hate does choose to focus on is subjective, to say the least, and tailored to fit a desired political narrative.
Stop AAPI Hate’s selling point to the public and to its funders is its database of anti-Asian hate crimes, which documents a rise in violence against Asian Americans in 2020 and 2021. “New Data Shows that Asian Americans Remain Under Attack,” reads an August 12, 2021, press release.
The methodology underlying these data is flawed. For one, it is self-reported to the group through surveys that it administers, via its website. The alleged increase in hate crimes comes from more people reporting to Stop AAPI Hate about hate crimes. A self-reinforcing bias could be at work here: the more attention that Stop AAPI Hate and others draw to racism narratives, the more incentive people have to characterize threats against them as racist.
The scale of “hate incidents” in the database is also suspect. Out of the 9,081 incidents reported, 63.7 percent fall under the category of “verbal harassment.” While unpleasant, verbal harassment is hardly comparable, say, to racially motivated physical or sexual assault. Another 19.5 percent of incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate are “shunning.” This includes scenarios in which the individual believes that he or she was excluded from work opportunities or social functions because of race. Such allegations are necessarily complicated to adjudicate. But what’s perhaps most significant is that only 13.7 percent of the database’s self-reported incidents are classified as physical assaults.
Certain high-profile examples loom larger than others in Stop AAPI Hate’s telling: Robert Aaron Long, the white shooter who killed six Asian women (along with two other men, one white and one Hispanic) at an Atlanta spa in 2021; and President Donald Trump’s comments about the “China virus” at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate has used these incidents to reinforce a larger “oppression” narrative, in which white xenophobia is primarily to blame for increased attacks against Asians.
Department of Justice data on the racial demographics of perpetrators of violence against Asians don’t support this narrative. Whites make up neither the majority nor even the plurality of perpetrators of such violence. In 2018, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) kept track of interracial violent altercations. Blacks, who made up about 12.5 percent of the population in 2018, accounted for 28 percent of reported violence against Asian Americans. Non-Hispanic whites, who made up about 60 percent of Americans, accounted for 25 percent.
Janelle Wong, an Asian American studies professor at the University of Maryland–College Park, seems unfamiliar with these data. “The racist kind of tropes that come along with [accusing Blacks of anti-Asian violence], especially that it’s predominantly Black people attacking Asian Americans who are elderly—there’s not really an empirical basis in that,” says Wong, who has used Stop AAPI Hate data in her research. She asserts that “75 percent of news stories identified perpetrators as male and white in instances of physical or verbal assault and harassment when the race of the perpetrator was confirmed.” She bases this claim on news stories and reports of anti-Asian hate incidents compiled by Stop AAPI Hate, with which she is affiliated. But, as we know, Stop AAPI Hate’s data are self-reported, making Wong’s claim suspect.
Further raising suspicion is the term “hate crime” itself. How do we determine “hate”? According to the Justice Department’s official definitions, the crimes must be motivated by “bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law.” The key clause here is “that are defined by the law.” Progressives tend to interpret these terms as referring only to certain protected classes, such as racial minorities—meaning that a crime committed against a white victim is much less likely to be deemed a hate crime than one committed against a black or an Asian victim, even if the underlying crime is the same. In other words, the white-against-minority framework is built in to the classification process. The term’s self-defining nature means that we simply can’t trust the claims of Stop AAPI Hate, Wong, and others. They are using questionable data, precut to fit their preferred narrative.
That is not to say that Asians don’t have legitimate concerns about rising violence—they do. But FBI data show that many races were affected by the recent nationwide increase in violence. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of black victims of homicide rose by 28 percent, while the number of white victims grew by 16 percent. The number of Asian homicide victims, however, fell 4 percent.
Stop AAPI Hate was just one of a range of “Asian American” groups that received substantial funding in the wake of the Atlanta spa shooting. Corporations and unnamed individual backers pledged more than $125 million, for example, to a group called the Asian American Foundation, “to stem a surge in anti-Asian violence and take on challenges that are often ignored by policymakers.” Groups claiming to fight “Asian hate” pulled in a record $25.8 million in 2021, following the spa shooting. In 2020, by contrast, the same groups were pledged only $500,000.
One of Stop AAPI Hate’s sponsors is Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), a liberal policymaking organization whose position is summed up by its name. In 2020, CAA had total revenues of $7.1 million, $4.3 million of which came from contributions and grants, while $2.6 million came from program services. It employs 149 people who receive total salaries of $2.8 million.
According to CAA’s IRS Form 990 Schedule O, the organization is the fiscal sponsor for eight additional groups besides Stop AAPI Hate: the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Apex Express, APIENC (API Equality–Northern California), Asian Refugees United, Hyphen Magazine, the Network on Religion and Justice, VietUnity–East Bay, and the Visibility Project. The collective organizations “share administrative, campaign, and movement building resources while exploring and deepening the connections that our collective members, volunteers, and staff have with one another.”
I became curious about the organizations under the umbrella of CAA and what purpose they were serving, so I called Stop AAPI Hate’s CEO, Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State, to talk about his organization’s priorities and funding structures. According to Jeung, Stop AAPI Hate “gathers data and educates the public” about anti-Asian prejudice and “systemic racism.” I asked what kind of advocacy this entails. He mentioned Trump’s calling the coronavirus the “China virus.” I asked Jeung whether he publishes data showing that Asians are also the targets of violence from black perpetrators. “We don’t address hate crimes” between blacks and Asians, he said. His organization, however, seemed to be more than happy to capitalize off the racism narrative when a white man shot and killed six Asian women, along with two others.
I asked him what he thought of anti-Asian bias at Harvard University. I explained to him that many Asian Americans are concerned that Harvard, a largely white university in terms of the student body, has discriminated against Asian Americans in the college-admissions process because it wants more black and Hispanic applicants, even if they are less qualified—a practice the Supreme Court has now ruled unconstitutional. Jeung dismissed my charge, saying, “No . . . we’re sponsored by Chinese for Affirmative Action,” which supported Harvard’s race-preferential policies. (He did say that Harvard’s rating Asian Americans lower on personality scores concerned him.) “A focus on elite universities doesn’t address the broad issues,” he said, adding that “Asian Americans are 20 times likelier to go to community colleges” than to a place like Harvard. At every turn, he tried to redirect the conversation away from Harvard or the Ivy League.
The logical inconsistencies that arose during my conversation with Jeung are prevalent among the intellectuals directing these well-funded nonprofits. On the one hand, Jeung complained about white-on-Asian violence and Trump’s language. On the other, he defended Harvard University’s actions against Asian Americans, which resembled the same sort of racially motivated discrimination that it practiced against Jewish Americans in the early twentieth century. In fact, prior to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, controlled for academic evaluation, Asian Americans had the lowest likelihood of being rated a “1” or “2” on personality (the highest ratings) out of all the races. This means, in effect, that a black applicant to Harvard in the fourth-lowest academic decile had a higher chance of admission than an Asian American in the top decile.
I also asked Jeung what his organization is doing to help ordinary Asian American communities. He confessed that Stop AAPI Hate “provides no direct service.” Its benefit to the public, he says, is taking down the “structural institutional sources” of racism against Asian Americans. In his world, Asian Americans would thrive, if not for white racism.
But there’s a problem with his claim: Asian Americans are already thriving. They have higher incomes and higher educational levels, and, by all accounts, they are assimilating into the upper middle class of America. How could a racist country let an entire racial group surpass whites in key indicators of socioeconomic status? (One caveat: as my book An Inconvenient Minority shows, discriminatory policies and practices committed by universities like Harvard and by large progressive corporations have contributed to Asian Americans’ lower-than-deserved presence in elite institutions. But this form of anti-Asian discrimination, as with black-on-Asian crime, Jeung and leaders of other affiliated or like-minded organizations are not interested in.)
Yes, some Asian Americans are struggling. Yet most still believe in the American dream. According to a 2016 Atlantic Media poll, a greater percentage of Asians than of blacks or even whites believe that they can get ahead and that the United States is a land of opportunity. What’s the point of teaching an already-self-confident, successful group that the society in which they’re advancing is racist toward them? This makes Stop AAPI Hate’s narrative about Asians both disheartening and incorrect.
Indeed, Stop AAPI Hate is pushing this narrative at a time when the need for racial harmony is perhaps greater than at any time since the 1960s. Between 2013 and 2021, the share of Americans who told pollsters that race relations were “favorable” or “good” dropped from 70 percent to 42 percent. In 2015, black Americans reported feeling prouder about the state of race relations than even whites (51 percent to 45 percent); that figure has since slipped precipitously, with only 33 percent of black Americans saying this in 2021. For the past few years, the media have saturated us with negative coverage of race relations, including those concerning Asian Americans.
But consider the story of Binh Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant whose story I tell in my book. Coming to America with little more than a grade-school education, Binh had his first encounter with a policeman. The officer offered him a ride to wherever he wanted to go. Back in his home country of Vietnam, the police were corrupt and sometimes cruel, so Binh said no. But now he realizes that he should have said yes. “When I first came to America, I stayed with a lady who was in her sixties. She was really patient,” he says. She invited him into her home to dine with her, and that experience engendered a faith in his new country, which has adopted him as one of its own. Now, Binh runs a thriving real-estate business, but his dream is to serve his adopted country as an air-force pilot. “I don’t see the racism in white people,” he tells me. “I feel like liberal media has been pushing strong images about America. According to liberals, English is my second language. I am more welcome here in the U.S. than in my own country.”
Binh Vo’s experience of acceptance and assimilation represents the kind of stories we should be hearing more about, because they are not only true and motivating but also common. The systemic-racism narrative that Stop AAPI Hate and similar organizations promote serves only to divide us.
Photo: A demonstrator advertises the website of Stop AAPI Hate, one of several “Asian American” groups that received substantial funding in the wake of the Atlanta spa shooting in 2021. (SOPA IMAGES LIMITED/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)