San Antonio – Romelette Metz, a business owner in San Antonio, says she like many others were victims of hate incidents last year.
She was called names. “Hey China, go back to your country,” the Filipino native recalls hearing.
Metz said she’s not paranoid or sensitive about things, but she definitely felt the hateful looks and vibes by some people in the community.
“Everybody was so angry and they’re looking for somebody to blame and express the frustration, that anger. And I feel like we became the shock absorber at that time,” Metz said.
Metz said many in the Asian community just want to lay low and not get involved with things that are uncomfortable or embarrassing.
But that’s the problem, says Brian Levin, a professor at CSUSB and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
“We know they’re happening in Texas and they’re vastly underreported,” he said.
A recent study by the organization looked at hate incidents from 2020 and showed nearly a 150% increase in hate crimes against Asians in 16 major cities.
San Antonio was not one of them, but he said it’s likely because people aren’t reporting them. He said crimes against certain groups comes in waves. Around 2010, he said hate crimes were increasing against Latinos with a lot of concerns about undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border.
Anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate trended in the last decade, he explained. In 2019, there were crime increases against transgender and anti-Semitic as well as anti-Latino. He said words matter and the rhetoric that people hear is often correlated with hate crimes going up.
“As coverage and fear of the virus goes down and the ability of bigots to attach stereotypes and conspiracy theories about the virus to Asian people, that will be a help,” he said.
Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of Asian Pacific policy and planning council & co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, said they received more than 2,800 hate incidents reported across the nation in 2020. Some of them were not necessarily hate crimes per say, but incidents of hate speech or actions, of that, just over 100 cases were from Texas.
“Words absolutely matter, and unfortunately, our former president engaged very actively in racist rhetoric against our community. We saw that through terms like the Wuhan Virus, China Virus, Kung Flu,” Kulkarni said. About 500 cases she said included terms used by the president.
Moving forward, Kulkarni said it’s important that communities speak up about hate incidents.
“We need to teach folks that hate in our communities is really unacceptable and that when we see something happening, we need to say something and to be upstanders for our fellow community members,” she said.