Since the pandemic began, violence against Asian-Americans has skyrocketed. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities are being blamed for the coronavirus, encouraged in part by politicians like former President Donald Trump who have used xenophobic and racist language like "China virus" or "Kung flu." Anti-Asian hate crimes grew nearly 150% in major US cities and those numbers are probably underreported as many folks don’t report what happened to the police.
Student journalists from PBS NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs at Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio pitched us the idea to make a video exploring why it’s so hard to get racist violence charged as hate crimes. We also spoke to a group of young organizers from Alameda, California called the Youth Activists of Alameda who are working to combat Asian hate and other social injustices in their community.
TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.
What is a hate crime?
First of all, there are federal laws and state laws when it comes to hate crimes, and then there are some states like Wyoming, Arkansas, and South Carolina that don't even have hate crime laws. But generally speaking, a hate crime is a crime motivated by the perpetrator’s hatred for an entire group of people based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. Getting something classified as a hate crime is a big deal because it’s got more severe penalties compared to non-hate crimes. For that to happen two needs have to be met. First, a crime has to have been committed. Just having biased thoughts isn’t a crime, but some actions motivated by bias are. Second, is whether you can prove that the victim was targeted because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
How can we designate more crimes as hate crimes?