October 4, 2023

Signs against violence against Asians will be posted outside a store in Chinatown on March 18, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The number of nationally reported hate crimes against Asian and black people rose sharply in 2020, according to new FBI data released Monday.

Hate crime against people of Asian descent rose a whopping 70% last year compared to the number of such incidents in 2019, the FBI said.

This surge coincided with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, which some racists wrongly blamed Asian Americans for because of the origin of the coronavirus in China. The rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and his allies against the Chinese government contributed to the anti-Asian sentiment.

But the actual number of reported incidents against people of Asian descent last year, at 274 crimes, was relatively small compared to the number of incidents against black people.

In 2020, there were 2,755 reported incidents against blacks or African Americans in the U.S. – a nearly 40% increase from the previous year – making them the most attacked racial group by a wide margin, according to the FBI.

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Overall, the number of hate crimes in the US rose 6%, according to the FBI.

The agency regards criminal incidents as hate crimes when they are “motivated by biases related to race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity”.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Monday that the data “does not explain the many hate crimes that are not reported”.

“These hate crimes and other prejudice-related incidents fuel fear across communities and undermine the principles on which our democracy stands,” Garland said.

“All people in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or molested because of their origins, their looks, their love or their worship.”

President Joe Biden signed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act in April, which was passed specifically to combat the surge in anti-Asian crimes during the Covid pandemic.

The law directed the Department of Justice to expedite the investigation of hate crimes related to the pandemic and to raise awareness of anti-Asian crimes. The law was signed a month after six Asian women, along with two other people, were killed in shootings at two Atlanta area spas.

After the incidents against blacks, the most common hate crimes were against whites with 773 reported incidents and against Jews with 676 incidents, according to data released Monday.

Incidents involving victims who were gay men were the fourth most frequently reported form of hate crime.

The data is based on incident reports from more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.

Last year, 7,759 criminal incidents and 10,532 related crimes were reported that were classified as hate crimes, the FBI said.

The majority of hate crimes, more than 53%, involved intimidation of victims, while nearly 46% were simple or serious assault.

A total of 22 murders have been reported as hate crimes.