A trio of Democratic attorneys general on Friday encouraged people to report hate crimes they’ve either been victims of or witnessed, saying a lack of reporting hampers their efforts to do more to prevent attacks such as this week’s Atlanta-area spa killings.
Hate crimes are generally underreported, though the rise in incidents targeting Asian Americans show the problem is increasing, said Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who convened an online panel about the issue with District Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
“This rise in violence and hate against Asian Americans that has coincided with the covid pandemic in the last year has to stop,” Herring said. “It is something that is way, way underreported.”
Tong, who is Chinese American, said many Asian Americans feel powerless against attacks, adding that there is a long history of being targeted that stretches back to the Japanese internment camps during World War II and the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 19th century, which was meant to stop Chinese immigration.
He recounted his own brushes with online hate after being elected attorney general in 2018.
“People called me the `Manchurian AG.’ ” Tong said. “Just yesterday, somebody accused me of being an agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Folks, I was born in Hartford, Connecticut, thank you very much.”
While many incidents do go unreported, the available statistics show an overall increase in hate-related incidents in recent years, said Racine, blaming former president Donald Trump’s often nativist rhetoric for the trend.
Between 2015 and 2018, the number of reported hate incidents in D.C. more than tripled to 218, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the FBI. But such reports slightly dropped during the same period in Virginia and Connecticut, to 143 and 81, respectively.
Racine said there is an absence of will to report hate incidents and an absence of resources available to collect the data.
“Believe me, underreporting is utilized by those who benefit from hate who downplay the existence of it,” he said.