Anti-Asian Racism in 2020

Anti-Asian Racism in 2020 Map: FAQ

How do I see information about a specific incident?

First, click on one of the red clusters.

If there are multiple incidents in the cluster, click on “Browse features” in the top row, which displays as a table icon on mobile. The summary should now display a list of incidents. Scroll up and down to see all incidents in the cluster.

You may click on a specific incident to see more information including the location and date of the incident, the number of times the incident was reported in the news, the forms of racism involved in the incident, and a news source reporting on the incident. If on mobile, you will have to click again on the description of the incident to see the specific information.

Once you are looking at a specific incident summary, you may use the arrows in the top-right corner to move between incident summaries. You may also click on “Browse features” to return to the list of all incidents in the cluster.

How do I see just one form of racist incident?

In the upper-left corner, click on the link “Explore Hate Incidents by Category.”

After the new map loads, click one of the categories on the left side. The map will automatically populate with only the incidents with that form of racism.

Can I filter for multiple forms of racist incidents?

Unfortunately, the map can only filter by one category at a time.

How do I return to the map with all of the racist incidents?

To return to the map with all incidents, press the “All Incidents” link in the upper-left corner.

Why is the number of incidents and articles on the map different from those in the Virulent Hate Project’s reports?

The map only displays incidents where the location of the act is known. While most of the incidents that the Virulent Hate Project analyzes have known locations, this is not true for every incident. As a result, the numbers reported on the map and in reports may differ slightly.

For articles, the map only displays articles that mention specific hate incidents. This excludes any article that briefly mentioned the issue of anti-Asian hate or only talked specifically about acts of resistance.

Additionally, as the project continues to analyze data from news reports after 2020, information on the map may become out of date.

What features are available on mobile phones and tablets?

Unfortunately, the mobile version of the map has limited functionality due to restrictions with screen size. The only features that are available on mobile are the incident and cluster summaries. For full functionality, we recommend that you return to this page on your computer.

Depending on the size of your phone, these features may still be buggy. We apologize for any inconvenience.


The Virulent Hate Project at the University of Michigan uses news media to track incidents of coronavirus-related, anti-Asian racism. Using an established set of search terms, we search two news media databases–ProQuest and NewsBank–to collect news articles that mentioned the topic of anti-Asian racism. For 2020, we reviewed all articles that were published between January 1 and December 31, 2020.

We read through the news articles, identify unique incidents of racism and activism in the US, and enter these incidents into a database. We assign category tags for each incident based on the information made available in the news article, with particular focus on gathering details about the type, date, and location of the incidents; the demographics of the victims and perpetrators; and the deployment of specific stereotypes in anti-Asian rhetoric. (Note: tags were assigned to incidents based off of articles as they were originally published. In some instances, articles may be updated after they are published, and this may not be reflected in the incidents)


As noted above, this research draws on two news media databases. Although these two news databases do not contain every news source, we focused on these two databases because they were the two most comprehensive of the available options. (Note: The sources on the map are not necessarily the sources used in compiling the Virulent Hate reports and may not have been included in the databases used. The sources on the map reflect sources easily available and accessible online at the time the incidents were recorded. Due to the nature of online reporting, these article links may be out of date)

NewsBank: USA News

NewsBank’s USA News database, which is part of the Access World News – Historical and Current database. The Access World News/NewsBank database contains the full text of over 600 United States newspapers and over 260 English language newspapers from other countries worldwide.

ProQuest: News & Current Events

We filter ProQuest’s News & Current Events database for new sources in the United States. This database offers combined access to all ProQuest news source databases, including ProQuest Global Newsstream, ProQuest Digitized Newspapers and ProQuest Historical Newspapers, as well as ABI/INFORM Dateline, Alt-Press Watch, American Periodicals, British Periodicals, Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive, Women’s Magazine Archive, and Ethnic NewsWatch. Includes full text of thousands of newspapers, dozens of news wire services, and many news-oriented magazines and periodicals, from the past up to the present.

Search Terms

We only searched for articles that were published from January 1 to December 31, 2020. For each day, we used the following search terms: (Coronavirus OR COVID-19 OR COVID19 OR “COVID 19”) AND (xenophobi* OR discriminat* OR racis* OR racial) AND (Asia* OR chin*)

Coding and Tagging

When reviewing the articles, we identified unique incidents of anti-Asian racism and anti-racism resistance and entered them into a database. We only included incidents that occurred in the United States from January 1 to December 31, 2020. When we entered incidents into our database, we categorized them using a tagging system we developed at the start of the project. All tags are listed on this page under “Category Descriptions”

Harassment and Vandalism

Harassment incidents were acts of aggression, intimidation, and discrimination that targeted an individual or group of individuals. In this category, we included physical, verbal, avoidance, and nonverbal harassment, as well as acts of vandalism.

  • Physical Harassment: These incidents involved punching, pushing, burning, knifing, or any act that aimed to cause bodily harm to Asian or Asian American people. This included spitting, coughing, and sneezing which, in the context of a pandemic, carries the possibility of spreading a potentially lethal virus
    • Spitting, Coughing, Sneezing (sub-category of Physical Harassment): These incidents are particularly dangerous in the context of a pandemic in which respiratory droplets, saliva, and mucus can spread a potentially lethal virus.
  • Verbal Harassment: Incidents involving the acts of insulting, denouncing, threatening, or any other forms of hostile/racist language that is meant to harm an Asian or Asian American people.
    • Spoken Harassment (sub-category of Verbal Harassment): Instances of verbal harassment where the act was vocalized.
    • Online Harassment (sub-category of Verbal Harassment): Incidents where anti-Asian sentiment found expression through online platforms including, social media, zoom, web forums, comment sections, and more.
    • Racist Signs and Notes (sub-category of Verbal Harassment): Incidents where Anti-Asian sentiment was expressed through the display of racist signs and racist notes intended to intimidate individuals.
    • Rumor (sub-category of Verbal Harassment): Incidents involving false rumors spread bout an Asian individual regarding COVID-19.
  • Avoidance/Non-Verbal Harassment: Incidents involving shunning and other forms of hostile and discriminatory treatment of Asian and Asian American people because of the belief that they were more likely to have or spread COVID-19.
    • Barring from Business (sub-category of Avoidance/Non-Verbal Harassment): Instance of avoidance harassment where Asian and Asian American people were barred from entering a business or were refused service.
  • Vandalism: Incidents involving anti-Asian vandalism, graffiti, or defacement of property that was owned or frequented by Asian and Asian American people.
  • Face Mask: Instances where an individual was the target of one of the above forms of harassment due to the wearing or non-wearing of a face mask.
  • Slur: An instance of Verbal Harassment or Vandalism that involved the use of a slur.

Stigmatizing and Discriminatory Statements, Images, Policies, and Proposals

Incidents in this category discriminated against Asian and Asian American people and/or reproduced harmful anti-Asian stereotypes, especially in relation to COVID-19. While harassment incidents targeted individuals, stigmatizing statements, images, policies, and proposals harmed Asian and Asian American people as a community by fostering anti-Asian bias.

  • Stigmatizing Statements: These incidents involved statements, images, and videos reported in the news that stigmatized Asian and Asian American people.
    • Stigmatizing Rhetoric Related to COVID-19 (sub-category of Stigmatizing Statements): These incidents involved politicians and other individuals publicly using stigmatizing terms (e.g., “China virus” and “kung flu”) that associated the coronavirus with Asian and Asian American people.
    • Stigmatizing Images and Videos (sub-category of Stigmatizing Statements): These incidents involved individuals and groups circulating images and videos that conveyed harmful stereotypes about Asian and Asian American people.
  • Stigmatizing Policies: These incidents involved an individual or institution pursuing a policy or resolution that discriminated or expressed bias against Asian and Asian American people.

Use of Anti-Asian Stereotypes

This category notes when specific anti-Asian stereotypes were deployed in harassment incidents and stigmatizing statements and policies.

  • Perpetual Foreigner Incidents: Incidents in this category involved references to the perpetual foreigner stereotype, which is the idea that Asian American people are not truly American, but outsiders who do not belong in the United States.
  • Chinese Lab/Conspiracy Theories: Incidents in this category involved public figures who made stigmatizing statements that circulated the conspiracy theory that China created COVID-19 in a lab. These theories reinforced the belief that Asian and Asian American people pose an epidemiological, cultural, economic, racial, and national security threat to the United States.
  • Denigration of Chinese Culture: Incidents in this category drew on the long-standing stereotype of Asian and Asian American people being dirty, backwards, and a threat to civilized society.

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