SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- With more attention on hate crimes and incidents against the Asian American community, advocates are urging people to look at the root of the problem they say has increased during the pandemic.
During a panel Tuesday night, moderated by ABC 10News journalist Melissa Mecija, community leaders, diversity officers, attorneys, and those in higher education shed light on the issue of anti-Asian hate.
According to Leonard Trinh, the lead prosecutor for the hate crimes unit at the San Diego District Attorney’s office, hate crimes are one of the most underreported crimes.
Trinh said his family was also the victim of a hate crime when he was a child.
The longtime prosecutor said fear of retaliation and mistrust play a role in underreporting.
Advocates say it’s about time more people start talking about what’s happening.
“I think one of the biggest problems in what's escalating and what's led to this is the minimalization of the AAPI experience because they're just not seen,” said Cary Chow, a former ESPN anchor. Chow is now a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Boston Scientific.
Chow said during the beginning of the pandemic, people in the Asian community were talking about what was happening, but the news “coverage was not there.”
Farhat Popal, the Immigrant Affairs Manager with the City of San Diego, emphasized that hate does not “materialize out of thin air.
“It starts with disrespect, with discrimination,” Popal said.
JoAnn Fields with the Filipino Resource Center said she has been working with the elderly in the Asian American community. “Our elderly are traumatized and with that trauma, we need healing,” Fields said. “How will they receive healing if there's a lack of mental health services that is culturally sensitive?”
Frank Xu added that the “model minority myth may have created a public perception that Asians are mostly successful.”
Xu, with Asian Americans for Equality, said that “is definitely not true.”
During the panel, prosecutors clarified the difference between a hate crime and hate incident.
Christopher Tenorio, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, explained a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person, group, or property motivated by bias.” Bias can include race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
"There is a massive difference between hate crimes and hate incidents," Chow added. "We cannot make these false equivalencies because ultimately, that hurts the entire cause."
While community leaders said anti-Asian hate is nothing new, there are many who do not believe it is increasing. Trinh combated that with data.
"With respect to anti-Asian hate crimes, we didn't have any hate crimes referred to our office in 2017, in 2018, or 2019. It wasn't until the start of the pandemic pretty much in 2020 that we all of a sudden had three anti-Asian hate crimes reported to us," Trinh said.
Many groups and government leaders have spoken out against AAPI hate. While the panelists said it was a good start, it is not the solution.
“It is execution that matters. It is actually doing something and measuring those results,” said Andy Vaughn, President and CEO of Alliant International University.