How Can We Create Safety and Justice for the AAPI Community?

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Since the pandemic began, violence against Asian-Americans has skyrocketed. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)  communities are being blamed for the coronavirus, encouraged in part by politicians like former President Donald Trump who have used xenophobic and racist language like "China virus" or "Kung flu."  Anti-Asian hate crimes grew nearly 150% in major US cities and those numbers are probably underreported as many folks don’t report what happened to the police.  

Student journalists from PBS NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs at Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland, Ohio pitched us the idea to make a video exploring why it’s so hard to get racist violence charged as hate crimes. We also spoke to a group of young organizers from Alameda, California called the Youth Activists of Alameda who are working to combat Asian hate and other social injustices in their community.

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Click to see this video and lesson plan on KQED Learn.

What is a hate crime?

First of all, there are federal laws and state laws when it comes to hate crimes, and then there are some states like Wyoming, Arkansas, and South Carolina that don't even have hate crime laws. But generally speaking, a hate crime is a crime motivated by the perpetrator’s hatred for an entire group of people based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. Getting something classified as a hate crime is a big deal because it’s got more severe penalties compared to non-hate crimes. For that to happen two needs have to be met. First, a crime has to have been committed. Just having biased thoughts isn’t a crime, but some actions motivated by bias are. Second, is whether you can prove that the victim was targeted because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. 

How can we designate more crimes as hate crimes?

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After the incident in Atlanta this March when a white gunman fatally shot eight people, including six Asian women,  the White House rolled out an action plan to combat Asian hate including: a task force to end xenophobia against Asian Americans, an initiative to focus on anti-Asian violence and bias. In addition to that Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York created the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act which would improve hate crime reporting and would make sure this info is more accessible to AAPI communities.

What can communities do on the ground?

Some folks have called for more policing but the national reckoning that happened last summer with systemic police brutality and the disproportionate harm it causes Black and brown communities has caused debate, with many wondering if that would actually improve things or just create more injustice. Increasing education about hate crimes and encouraging more people to report them is one step. Another is having more education about different cultures, like ethnic studies programs in schools, that can foster more understanding, empathy and coalition-building between groups that face racism and discrimination and their allies.

Resources on how to support AAPI communities:

https://www.aapicovid19.org/resources

SOURCES:

Federal and State laws around hate crimes

Why is it rare to charge hate crimes?

The challenge with prosecuting hate crimes

Upwards of 2 million Asian Americans are affected by anti-Asian hate

Prosecutors hesitancy to charge bias-motivated crimes

Attacks on the AAPI community