Attacks on Asian Americans

By Ben Cornelius
Associate Editor, Volume 23


Kyle Descher was born in Korea, but adopted at a young age by an American couple. [1] Back when he was a college student he and a roommate headed out to a bar after a Washington State University football victory over Oregon. [2] As the pair approached the bar, the remark “fucking Asian” was hurled at Descher. Descher ignored the remark and went about his night.[3] But a few moments later an unknown assailant unleashed a vicious blow that broke Descher’s jaw in two places, and knocked him to the floor, unconscious and bleeding badly.[4] It took three titanium plates to get his jaw back together.[5] His mouth was wired shut.[6] He had to eat through a straw and would wake up several times a night from the throbbing pain.[7]

Hate crimes and crimes, and crimes in general, against Asian-Americans have been steadily rising. [8] In Los Angles, an L.A. County Commission on Human Relations report found that crimes targeting Asian-Americans tripled in that county between 2014 and 2015.[9] These sort of attacks also rose in New York City.[10]  Between 2008 and 2016, the percentage of Asian and Pacific Islander victims of robbery rose from 11.6 percent to 14.2 percent; felonious assault from 5.2 percent to 6.6 percent; and grand larceny from 10.3 percent to 13.5 percent.[11] The robbery statistic is particularly interesting, as robberies overall were down 29 percent over that same period despite the increase in robberies of Asians.[12] Due to likely underreporting, the statistics may be much more troubling. Language barriers, immigration status, and unfamiliarity with the criminal justice system can cause Asians to be hesitant to report crimes.[13] “They look at us as easier targets,” said Karlin Chan, an activist in New York’s Chinatown.[14]

Unfortunately, vicious race-based assaults on Asian-Americans are nothing new.[15] Cases of hate crimes against Asian-Americans can be found all the way back to the 1800’s.[16] The white supremacist group ‘Arsonists of the Order of Caucasians’ savagely murdered four Chinese men whom they blamed for taking away jobs from white workers.[17] The victims were tied up, had kerosene poured on them and then were set ablaze.[18] In 1987, a New Jersey gang calling itself the “Dotbusters” vowed to drive East Indians out of Jersey City by vandalizing Indian-owned businesses.[19] The gang also got violent and used bricks to bludgeon a young South Asian male into a coma.[20] Regardless of how many generations a person may have been here, Asians are often seen as the perpetual foreigner hell-bent on stealing jobs and taking over the country.[21]

Whites are not the only group who have targeted Asians.[22] Many cities, particularly San Francisco, have seen a rise in black on Asian crime.[23]  A 2008 survey by the San Francisco Police Department, in which about 300 strong-arm robberies were analyzed, found that “In 85 percent of the physical assault crimes, the victims were Asian and the perpetrators were African American.”[24] A shocking attack took place in August of 2017 when a 51-year-old black woman admitted she shoved an 81-year old-Asian women off a train platform simply because she didn’t like Asians. [25] City officials seem willfully ignorant to the problem and instead simply say that criminals target those of small stature.[26] During a shocking interview, African American ex-con Ananze Emenike, admits that he targeted Asians based on the assumptions that they carried a lot of cash, wouldn’t fight back, and wouldn’t go to police due to a language barrier.[27]

Despite the disturbing situation, many groups are working to address the increase of crimes against Asians. The non-profit civil rights group, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, has developed an incident tracer.[28] The website,, documents hate incidents and crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders from around the nation.[29] In some cities such as Sacramento, police and Asian rights groups have been coming together to try and address the problem.[30] The Sacramento Police Department organizes meetings in order to connect with victimized communities and create better communication.[31] One such meeting was held on November 1, 2017 following the increase in robberies with Asian victims.[32]

One Asian immigrant thinks dialogue and friendship are the cure. Like the 81-year-old victim discussed before, 51-year-old Mrs. Cheng was attacked on March 22, 2017, when a 15-year-old boy threw her off a metro platform.[33] She was injured, but she says she doesn’t want retribution. “This is my simple request, that we can all live safely in our own homes without being burglarized. I only hope that my bad luck will fend off future bad luck situations for other people. My neighbor is black, though we can’t communicate much, he is a good person and a good friend. He often jokes that he would teach me English and I Chinese to him.”[34]

[1] John Hughes, A savage blow, fueled by hate, and no steps forward, (February 5, 2008)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Jenny J. Chen, First-Ever Tracker Of Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans Launched, (February, 17, 2017)

[9] Id.

[10] Chris Fuchs, Reports of crimes against Asians are rising in some cities. Police are working to figure out why, (December 07, 2017)

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Fuchs, supra note 10.

[15] Chetanya Robinson, Advocates See ‘Disturbing’ Rise in hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans, New American Media (August 14, 2017)

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Chen, supra note 8.

[21] Robinson, supra note 15.

[22] C.W. Nevius, Dirty secret of black-on-Asian violence is out, SF Gate (May 2, 2010)

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Veronica Rocha, Woman, 81, shoved off train platform in San Francisco because she was Asian, police say, LA Times (Septemebr 01, 2017)

[26] Nevius, supra note 22.

[27] J. Maraan, Asian Americans Are Targeted For Hate Crimes More Than We Think, Next Shark (August 16, 2017)

[28] Chen, supra note 8.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Nevius, supra note 22.

[34] Id.