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AANHPI Stories

Anti-Asian violence is not new—and it will take a change in our culture to stop it.

Tiffany W. Chang
Tiffany W. Chang, Director of Community Engagement at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

At Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, we fight for civil rights and empower Asian Americans to create a more just America for all. Our organization works with nearly 250 organizations serving Asian American and immigrant communities across the country. As the director of community engagement, I have conversations with community organizations on how we can work together on issues including immigration, anti-hate, civic engagement, anti-racial profiling, and tech & telecommunications.

We trust these community-based organizations to lead on solutions that impact their local communities, so we provide support in the form of sub-grants, technical assistance, media and advocacy trainings, and when possible, translated materials on national topics of interest including the census and voting to help reduce the burden on those organizations to create resources from scratch.  

Xenophobic rhetoric and scapegoating of Asian communities, including Muslim and Sikh communities, can make us more vulnerable to gun violence.

With both the Atlanta and Indianapolis shootings this year, we’ve seen how xenophobic rhetoric and scapegoating of our communities can make us more vulnerable to issues like gun violence in a country where existing policies have not gone far enough to protect us. 

After the Atlanta mass shooting in March, where six of the eight people killed were Asian women, I reached out to the founder of a national Arab American organization to explore whether they’d be interested in working together on a mass mobilization in response to anti-Asian violence and state-sanctioned violence against immigrants and communities of color. He said to me without hesitation, “Yes. I remember after 9/11 when our office was receiving hate mail and death threats…the Asian community held a rally for us at the Japanese American War Memorial. I will never forget that, and I’m happy to do whatever I can to help the Asian American community in this moment.” 

I was just a kid when 9/11 happened, but hearing how much our communities have devoted themselves to long-term solidarity over the years, and knowing how much it has meant to us when allies have reached out in this moment of crisis, really fortified my belief in the work that we’re doing at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC to continue that commitment to cross-racial, intersectional liberation. 

The anti-Asian violence we’ve been seeing across the country is nothing new, and there’s no magic solution to stop the violence.

To stop anti-Asian violence, it will take a change in our culture from how we gather data on anti-Asian hate and bias, to how we respond to microaggressions against Asian Americans that pave the way for more severe instances of violence; how we neutralize divisive and misleading rhetoric targeting immigrants; and shift narratives about our community and contributions to the United States.

We also have to center immigrants, Black and brown folks, low-wage workers, women, gender nonbinary individuals, and LGBTQ+ folks in coming up with solutions for community safety that are not carceral in nature. Most importantly, we have to combat policies that enable violence against communities of color to continue and instead advocate for policies that are pro-immigrant and pro-racial and economic justice. 

You can take action against anti-Asian violence in these ways: 

  • Educate yourself about Asian American history (PBS’ 5-part documentary series is an excellent place to start).
  • Document hate and bias incidents on our tracker.
  • Participate in the bystander trainings Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC has been hosting with Hollaback!
  • Support campaigns for immigrant rights and racial justice.
  • Get involved in your local communities by volunteering or donating to the groups who have long been at the frontlines fighting for our communities or providing critical services like mental health care, victim assistance, and domestic violence prevention. 

The Asian American and Pacific Islander community’s story is one of traversing boundaries and of creative survival.

I see the work we do at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC as not just social, economic, and political in nature, but also spiritual in the sense that our mission is ultimately to ease suffering, fight ignorance, and break free from cycles of violence that keep us from making the most out of this life. Through the messiness of it all, it’s about loving people better and creating the world anew. That doesn’t change regardless of whether you’re having a bad day, or dealing with a bad administration, or disagreeing on the nuances of policy or rhetorical style. It’s a spiritual practice just to show up every day and be present for others. 

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, which occurs annually in May, is a yearly celebration of the richness and strength of our communities, as well as a reflection on how much further we need to go in terms of educating ourselves about our communities’ histories and contributions to this country, and creating positive change. It’s a time to read, watch, and learn. I find that within the AAPI community especially, we live in this liminal space between the national and transnational, between cultures, and between periods of history. Such a universe of storytelling makes this month especially exciting. The AAPI story is forever one of traversing boundaries and of creative survival. It’s endlessly surprising, never dull.

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