LOS ANGELES  –  It might be no wonder that hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise in the age of COVID-19, which has been saddled with derogatory nicknames such as the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu.”

Fear and anxiety are growing and so, too, may be the need to blame and point fingers. 

“I heard somebody shouted an obscenity: ‘F--- You!, very loudly,” said author and journalist Jeff Yang from his Ladera Heights home. “I looked up realized that the person was shouting in my direction.”


Yang was the only Asian American in line for groceries at a Trader Joe’s when the incident happened.

“An older white woman wearing a mask sort of theatrically pulled down her mask coughed in my direction, pulled it back up, and then scuttled to her car and drove off,” said Yang.

Yang shared his encounter online and it immediately caught fire as others chimed in with their own similarly disturbing stories.

“I felt deeply hurt and it made me realize this is something that's happening to more of us and maybe soon to all of us,” said Yang.

Yang also immediately noticed the division his story caused online with several, predominantly white people, doubting his experience. 

“I don't believe that ever happened. That kind of racism is being made up. Asians are not really being targeted, and you're all trying to become victims,” Yang said, relating some of the comments he received. “And then African Americans were mostly saying, ‘Yeah, we believe you because this is what we deal with all the time.’”

Gregg Orton, director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, points to the bigger trend of hundreds of cases of violence against Asian Americans that has occurred since the pandemic started.

“It's cases like that that really concern us because we know that the COVID-19 circumstances are likely to intensify before they get better,” said Orton from Washington, D.C.. “But we are concerned that as that anxiety grows, continued attacks may occur.”

“The idea that there is a need at this moment to identify a source of blame attached to a particular ethnicity is an obstacle for us to actually overcome this significant crisis we’re facing,” Yang said. 

A coalition of national civil rights organizations delivered a message to mayors and governors calling for them to stand with the Asian American community, and both Yang and Orton agree, we must now all come together as the virus isn't the only thing threatening our communities.