The Anti-Asian Violence Myth

Lately, there is a spate of articles about hate crimes against Asian Americans. Horrific crimes, often caught on camera, supposedly exemplify the trend.

When the stories first appeared, the media blamed Trump and his labeling of COVID-19 as the “China virus.” The media implied white racists were mostly to blame for recent attacks, the same white racists who, the media insists, supported Trump and were encouraged by his nationalistic rhetoric. 

This view is an extension of the foundational myth of all leftist politics: America, the perennially racist nation, is now manifesting its racist character in novel ways against new victim classes. 

Reality Collides With the Myth

Unfortunately for the media and the narrative makers, the ubiquitous cameras that capture these incidents also reveal the race of the perpetrators. These high-profile incidents are almost exclusively black-on-Asian, just as a large proportion of violent crime in general—and interracial crime in particular—arises from black perpetrators

This may seem unremarkable in a diverse society, but the numbers, in fact, are wildly disproportionate to each group’s portion of the total population. Blacks make up only 13 percent of the population, yet black offenders commit more than half of all murders and a third of all violent crimes. For Asian victims, blacks made up 27.5 percent of offenders in the last year for which complete statistics were available, exceeding every other perpetrator group, including whites, whose population is far larger. 

It’s not clear how many of these black-on-Asian crimes are rooted in bias. So-called hate crimes are simply a subset of crime in general, and political agendas loom large in making this classification. Labeling crimes against preferred victims by preferred offenders as “hate crimes” enhances the broader narrative. Of course, the label is almost never applied to black-on-white crimes. Even when whites are tortured to death or told that a rape is payback for slavery, there has been little examination of such sentiments, nor the roots of such hate. 

By excluding the largest categories of offenders and crime victims, we avoid discussing the dynamics of crime in general, including the characteristics of perpetrators, their motives, and their versatility in victim choice. 

Part of a Broader Rise in Crime

Last summer, the political class rather suddenly began to endorse getting soft on crime: defunding police, ending cash bail, and ending long-term incarceration. This was not simply a concoction of the far Left. Under the wise tutelage of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump was pushing criminal justice reform as a wedge issue in 2020. 

Last year’s Republican National Convention was replete with one ex-convict after another talking about how wrong it was for them to serve long prison sentences and how they were thankful to Trump for releasing them. 

One half-expected Willie Horton himself to deliver a stump speech!

Unfortunately, as a consequence of such moral retreat, crime has skyrocketed, particularly in urban areas. Homicides went up 33 percent in American cities last year. Murders have gone up even more this year. 

Asians unsurprisingly have been victimized in this maelstrom. As a group, they tend to be overrepresented in urban areas. Los Angeles is about 10 percent Asian. New York is nearly 13 percent. Asian immigrants often pursue small business opportunities (dry cleaners, convenience stores) in rougher neighborhoods. As such, they are more exposed to opportunities to be victimized, but they are simply one more victim group on the receiving end of the recent crime wave.

Rigid Thinking on Race Obscures Reality 

One problem with contemporary racial discourse is that whites are only permitted a collective identity as perpetrator, just as blacks are only permitted a collective identity as victim. This is not healthy for either group. Because groups are made up of individuals, naturally some are good, others bad, and still others are somewhere in between. It’s normal for members of groups to have pride in the accomplishments of their members, just as it can be healthy for groups to feel some shame when one of their own has done something wrong. Healthy pride coupled with accountability and humility is good for individuals and for groups. 

The current race obsession has led to a corrupting flattery of black Americans along with a demoralizing demonization of white Americans. This intertwined flattery and condemnation distracts from an unacceptably high rate of violent crime, the need for punishment of criminal offenders, and the need to explore the cultural roots of these disparities. In other words, current anti-Asian incidents are not an expression of white racism or broader American racism, but rather the fruits of America’s unhealthy race obsession. 

To state the obvious: If you tell people that whites are all bad and the root of their current problems, it should not be surprising if some people take it seriously and believe themselves justified in committing violence. Asian Americans are being victimized in the spillover from this violence. There is not any marked anti-Asian propaganda or feeling in America. While once victims of prejudice and exclusion, in recent decades Asians have succeeded, often beyond the native stock, by following the old rules of success: hard work, education, and thrift. 

For some, the focus on anti-Asian violence appears to be a backdoor way of discussing black crime, a topic otherwise fraught with personal and professional risk. By way of analogy, affirmative action hurts both whites and Asians, but most of the public criticism against it, as well as some high-profile lawsuits, have been made on behalf of Asian Americans. That said, rhetoric about anti-Asian violence, even when perpetrated by black offenders, mostly adheres to the traditional formula: whites are bad, and everyone else is their victim. 

This is blood libel. There are interracial crimes against whites equally as brutal as the Asian victimizations recently so prominent in the news. They would be classified as bias crimes, but for the recent cultural norm of viewing whites solely as perpetrators of racism, and blacks chiefly as victims. When roles are reversed like this, real events become “unteachable moments” that are quickly forgotten. As with the fear of retaliation against Muslims after the September 11 attacks, the only reason white victimhood can be addressed is to express concern that it will foster backlash and revenge.

False Narratives Fuel Disorder

A confident society not obsessed with race would simply say crime is a problem from whatever quarter it arises, and it should be stopped. Horror about violent offenders, whether Ted Bundy or Colin Ferguson, can and should unite Americans of all races. But race obsession means that racial disparities in crime and punishment are deemed an indictment of whites and of the broader society, rather than of the criminals themselves. 

The recent spate of Asian victimization is like all criminal victimization: ugly and brutal, devoid of all empathy. Such crimes are hateful, regardless of whether racial bias plays any part. Whether arising from lust, greed, race prejudice, or indifference, victims hurt the same and are traumatized the same. 

A crime should not be blamed on the society or even the racial group from which the perpetrator arises. Crimes are committed individually and should be punished individually. The only way society can be blamed is when it fails to take crime seriously and make the kind of swift and harsh decisions necessary to stop it. 

In this sense, the Left-dominated media and political institutions deserve some blame for the recent rise in crime, because their false narratives of white guilt and black moral exquisiteness have led to increasing disorder and confusion. This myth deprives every American of every race from being rewarded or punished because of his individual behavior. And the price for these lies is innocent blood.

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About Christopher Roach

Christopher Roach is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and an attorney in private practice based in Florida. He is a double graduate of the University of Chicago and has previously been published by The Federalist, Takimag, Chronicles, the Washington Legal Foundation, the Marine Corps Gazette, and the Orlando Sentinel. The views presented are solely his own.

Photo: Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images

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