The New Victims of Hate: Bias Crimes Hit America's Fastest-Growing Ethnic Group
Clemetson, Lynette, Newsweek
John Lee can barely remember the most terrifying night of his life. One moment he was meeting friends on the steps of his dorm at the State University of New York at Binghamton, the next he lay hospitalized with a fractured skull. In February, Lee and three other Asian-American students were jumped by three members of the school's wrestling team, who attacked with head butts, kicks and racial slurs. As Lee heard witnesses describe the taunts his attackers shouted--"You damned chink! That's what you get!"--he came to a sickening realization. "It was all because of race," says the 19-year-old Korean-American. "I never thought I could be the victim of a hate crime."
In the past 10 years the nation's Asian population has soared more than 43 percent to roughly 11 million, making them the fastest-growing minority group. But as the numbers have exploded, so have attacks like the one against Lee. A new report by a coalition of Asian-American civil-rights groups shows that violent attacks against Asian-Americans have risen in the '90s--to 486 incidents last year from 335 in 1993.
A spate of troubling cases in recent months has underscored concerns. In September two teens wielding a broken broomstick beat a 50-year-old Laotian man in Baltimore as he stood waiting for a bus. And at Cornell University there have been three reports of racially motivated assaults against Asian women in the last month and a half. "We see the backlash as communities and social dynamics change," says Sin Yen Ling, an attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "There is fear on all sides, and it's becoming more deadly."
Part of the problem is that hate crimes against Asian-Americans are vastly underreported. A cultural reluctance to cause a fuss often prevents victims from coming forward, and those who do may feel more comfortable reporting incidents to community groups than to police. Of the three other Asian-American students attacked on the same night as Lee, two have decided to remain anonymous. And Lee himself has been reluctant to become a poster child for activists. "I just want to put it behind me and get on with my life," he says. Police officers, too, often fail to recognize incidents as being racially motivated. …