Attacks on Asians Not ‘White Supremacy,’ Just ‘Thugs,’ Researcher Says

Attacks on Asians Not ‘White Supremacy,’ Just ‘Thugs,’ Researcher Says
A police officer on a foot patrol in Chinatown in San Francisco on March 18, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Petr Svab

The notion that white supremacists are responsible for violent attacks on Asians falls apart under scrutiny, according to a political science researcher who collected and analyzed a database of such attacks.

Wilfred Reilly, assistant professor at Kentucky State University, collected publicly available information on about 100 attacks on Asians reported in the media in the past 14 months or so.

“I don’t think any of them have turned out to be the work of a kind of white racialist, like someone affiliated with an actively prejudiced group, or even a Proud Boy in a street fight, something like that,” he told The Epoch Times in a phone call, referring to the right-wing group that has engaged in street fights with members of the anarcho-communist Antifa network.

Reilly characterized the attackers on Asians as “diverse urban goons, mostly black," though that doesn't mean at least some of the perpetrators weren't biased against Asians.

The suspect was identified as black in over 60 percent of the cases. Another more than 25 percent were white, he said. Black people comprise about 13 percent of the population. White people about 60 percent.

“None of the whites seem to be racists,” Reilly said, referring to what could be gleaned from their background, such as their “online association with any racial or radical group.” Similarly to the black suspects, the whites fitted a profile of an “urban thug,” he said.

“People are looking for easy scapegoats,” he said, and “white supremacy” fits that bill.

“In fact you just have a diverse group of goons beating up and robbing Asians,” he said.

He also examined the 2018 violent crime victimization survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to see how much crime Asians face in general and who are the perpetrators (pdf).
Asian victims most commonly identified attackers as black (over 27 percent), then white (over 24 percent), and then “Other” (over 14 percent), which includes Pacific Islanders, people of multiple races, and others. This data was not included for Asian victims in the latest BJS report for 2019 (pdf).

Asians face the least violent crime of the races and ethnicities listed by the 2019 report—less than 0.8 percent fell victim that year, compared to 2.1 percent of whites and Hispanics and less than 1.9 percent of blacks.

“What reduces crime against Asians isn’t that whites or blacks target them less. They target them more,” Reilly said.

The reason, as the data shows, is that only about 24 percent of violent crimes against Asians are committed by other Asians. For whites against whites, that percentage is over 62 percent, for blacks on blacks it’s over 70 percent, and for Hispanics some 45 percent.

“They don’t have that home team disadvantage that most of us do,” Reilly said.

For other groups, conversely, Asian perpetrators are barely on the radar. Though comprising about 6 percent of the population, they have been identified as only 2.2 percent of attackers on whites, 0.6 on Hispanics, and less than 0.1 percent on blacks. The report cautions that the latter two figures have a limited statistical value.

Attacks on Asians have gained media attention after a 21-year-old man killed eight people in several massage parlors in the Atlanta area on March 16; six of the victims were Asian women. Many such parlors are known to illegally offer sexual services and are most commonly staffed by Chinese immigrants, many of whom have fallen victim to human trafficking. Authorities said the man used to frequent some of the establishments and may have been addicted to sex. He told police he was trying to eliminate the temptation.

The investigation hasn’t so far uncovered an anti-Asian motive on the man’s part.

There appears to be an increase in hate crimes against Asians last year. In 16 of the country’s largest cities, there was an increase to 122 incidents in 2020 from 49 the previous year, according to an analysis by researchers from California State University (CSU) in San Bernardino (pdf). The FBI will release its 2020 hate crime data later this year.
Based on 2019 FBI data, anti-Asian sentiment motivated about 2.2 percent of hate crimes reported. About 45 percent of hate crimes aren’t reported to police, according to 2015 survey data by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (pdf).

Hate crimes are crimes for which authorities seek a higher penalty, alleging that the perpetrator was motivated by animus toward characteristics such as race, religion, and sexual proclivities.

A significant portion of hate crimes may be hoaxes, according to a 2017 analysis by Reilly, who specialized in empirically testing political claims.
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
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