Asian Americans are increasingly being targeted in hate crimes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—a deplorable wave that was anticipated by Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern.
“It’s very serious, and we knew it was coming,” says McDevitt, a professor of the practice in criminology and criminal justice who has been studying hate crimes since the 1980s. His institute received a grant from the state of Massachusetts last year to create a hate-crime guide for schools in Massachusetts that was based in part on “fear that unjust blame for the pandemic would be suffered by people who are perceived to be Asian American.”
The attackers have cut across a wide swath of the Asian American community, says Carlos Cuevas, a professor of criminology and criminal justice who co-directs the Violence and Justice Research Lab at Northeastern.
“You have to think about people who perpetrate hate crime or bias-driven violence,” Cuevas says. “They are not having a full-blown intellectual evaluation about what they’re going to do. They have heard the messages around China as the cause of the virus, and then they target somebody because they perceive that person to be from that place.
“They’re not going to ask, ‘Are you from China? Are you from Japan or Korea?’ They’re not going to care. They’re going to perceive you as the group that they are focused on. And they’re going to target those individuals.”