Taking a Stand Against Asian American Hate Crimes
with John Yang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC
According to data released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, hate incidents against Asian Americans have risen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC, discusses with host Tetiana Anderson what the numbers show and don’t — and a training available for bystanders to learn how to safely respond to nonviolent anti-Asian harassment.
April 30, 2021
Anderson: Faulting China for the origin and spread of COVID-19 in the United States has been linked to increased violence and harassment against the Asian-American community, prompting calls for nationwide activism. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Data released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University confirms an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. But the numbers likely aren't telling the whole story. Joining me to talk about all this is John Yang. He is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, AAJC. And, John, thanks for being here.
Yang: Thank you very much for having me, Tetiana.
Anderson: John, we're talking about a 150% spike in anti-Asian hate crimes. What do you attribute that spike to, especially given we are in a period in this nation where hate crimes against other groups have dropped?
Yang: Yeah. Well, Tetiana, we see two real causes. One is COVID-19. Because of COVID-19, everyone has fear -- economic fears, health fears. Unfortunately, with that fear, people want to find a target, find someone to blame. And in this case, the Asian-American community has been that target. And that's been in part caused by a prior administration that used terms such as the Chinese virus or Wuhan flu or derivations even worse than that, that place a target on the back of Asian Americans. But the second piece that we also need to understand is we have real geopolitical tensions with the Chinese government. Whether it's the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, whether it is free press in Hong Kong, there are real tensions. But what happens with these tensions is oftentimes a backlash against the Asian American community here at home in the United States.
Anderson: So, these tensions, that backlash, that's sort of what led to this 150% spike that we were talking about earlier. And that's a shocking figure in and of itself, but it might not even be fully accurate. And actually, it could be much worse, from what I understand. Explain that to our viewers.
Yang: You're absolutely right. That is, we think, just the tip of the iceberg as to what is actually happening. Whether it's that statistic, a group called Stop AAPI Hate has recorded 3,800 incidents, plus the incidents that we've seen on our website. But that is based on self-reporting. Survey data that we have from different organizations show that approximately 30% of Asian Americans have faced discrimination or hate during this past year. And if you translate that, then we're talking about millions and millions of Americans that have been facing this hatred, this discrimination over COVID-19 and the pandemic.
Anderson: Part of what your organization does is also educate people. You've been working pretty hard-core over the past year with other partner organizations to stop or at least de-escalate rising anti-Asian sentiment. And you're doing it with something called the Five D's. I'm wondering if you can explain what those Five D's are and what they do.
Yang: Absolutely. So, the Five D's is a technique developed by an organization called Hollaback! that we have partnered with. Over the course of this past year, we have trained over 50,000 people. And so, here's what the Five D's are. They're different techniques for addressing hate. if you see it. One D would be what's called Distract. If you're in a situation where you see someone spewing hate at another person, you could distract from the situation. Just drop your keys or something, cause people to focus on something different than the act of hate that's happening. Second would be what's called Delegate. If you are in a position to do so, get someone else there to help you. It might be a store manager. It might be some other type of authority figure to get help to the scene. Number three is maybe Direct. It's, if you are in a position to do so, call out the action. Say, "Hey, that's racist. Stop that. That's wrong." Number four would be what's called Delay, is if you're not in a position that you can do something right away, that's okay. After the incident passes, go up to the victim and say, "Are you okay? Can I walk you to where you're going?" And the last would be Document. Document the incident, whether it's on your phone or whether it's afterwards to a website like ours, so that we see the stories and we're able to tell the stories about what is happening and really have a good response for it.
Anderson: And I'm wondering about, you know, the year ahead. What are you anticipating? I mean, have you made gains? Are you anticipating a tougher road before you?
Yang: I think the answer is both. I think the road is going to remain tough, but we are also making gains. Certainly, the Biden administration has set a new tone, and we are uplifted and encouraged by some of the actions already taken. There's legislation, there's executive action that is happening. The awareness that corporations and other entities are providing to what is happening has been important to us. Part of this is making sure that the Asian American community is seen, and part of this is making sure that the Asian American community feels protected. And on both of those counts, there's movement being made. Look, there's a lot of deep investment that has to be made in the Asian American community, especially to some of the local organizations that are doing the hard work, some having these hard conversations about race. Because part of this is, we see this in the whole panoply of racism that all of us are facing. It's not just the Asian American community, but it's the Black community, the Latino community, the Native American community. We need to fight against this racism together. And that's part of the work ahead of us.
Anderson: And, John, if people want to find out more about how you're doing that, where can they go? What's your website?
Yang: Sure. So, our website is www.advancingjustice-aajc.org. And you can find resources about racism, how you talk about it, you can find out more about the Five D's and sign up for training, and you can also report hate incidents.
Anderson: John Yang with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, AAJC, thank you so much for being here.
Yang: Thank you very much.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.