The mission of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans, and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Advancing Justice – AAJC has been working to address anti-Asian discrimination since our organization was founded more than 30 years ago, and we have deepened our engagement in anti-discrimination and anti-hate work as Asian American communities have faced increased harassment and hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I find inspiration every day in the strength and resilience of our communities—of our essential workers, our elders, and our youth.
During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in particular, it is important that we take time to honor our diverse culture and heritage. Finding joy in celebrating our culture, our communities, and our many contributions to this country is one way that we can practice resilience, whether that be through media representation, education, organizing, or simply through conversations with those around us.
Even in moments when our hearts are heavy, I am touched by the bravery of all the people who stand firm that “hate has no place here” and are willing to stand up and do something about it—whether it’s speaking up when someone makes a racist joke, doing the work to make their workplaces more inclusive, or intervening when they see harassment happening—whether that’s directly taking action in the moment to stop the harassment or the less public but nevertheless meaningful action of checking in on the person who was harassed and offering support. Yes, advocates will continue to push for systemic change, but all of this matters and can help us to change the culture to one where hate and discrimination has no place in our society and where everyone feels safe and cared for.
We have seen more people get activated—some for the first time—in response to anti-Asian hate. People are stepping up to organize vigils, rallies, and other events; volunteering; fundraising; holding conversations in their workplaces to raise awareness and discuss how to better support the Asian American community; and more. This increased engagement is a good thing, and we encourage people to continue to get involved and do more, such as engaging with organizations that are working to advance racial justice and social justice in their local communities.
At Advancing Justice – AAJC, we work to advance systemic change by advocating for policy solutions to guard our community’s safety and support our well-being.
One year ago, on May 20, 2021, we celebrated a victory as President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law. This legislation aims to tackle infrastructural improvements needed in hate crimes data collection, reporting, and connection to support services; expands language access and supports culturally competent and linguistically accessible public education campaigns; and includes measures to expand restorative justice practices and alternative sentencing.
We encourage people to mobilize behind the policy changes that are needed for our communities to truly feel safe and secure. Supporting stricter gun laws is one way to address anti-Asian hate and violence. The 2020 Asian American Voter Survey carried out by AAPI Data, APIAVote, and our organization Advancing Justice – AAJC, shows that a significant majority of Asian American voters (81%) support stricter gun laws. We need people to translate this support into meaningful policy change by engaging with their elected officials, whether at the local, state, or federal level, to advocate for laws and policies that will help keep our communities safe.
We need to educate Americans about the history of Asian Americans and all communities of color in the United States, their contributions to our nation, and the challenges that they have faced.
As a long-term solution to dismantling harmful stereotypes and addressing racial bias before it can take root, we advocate for more diverse teaching, including teaching Asian American history in public education. Incorporating comprehensive curricula for K-12 schools on communities of color, including Asian Americans, is important in dispelling myths and developing a greater understanding of the diverse communities that comprise the fabric of American society. By showing that Asian Americans are part of all aspects of America, we can break down stereotypes that lead to misinformation, disinformation, bias, prejudice, and ultimately violence.
It is often difficult to focus on accomplishments when we know that hate and violence against Asian Americans continues, but we have been proud of how the Asian American community and others have risen in this moment, including our own organization. Reaching broad audiences through our trainings on how to safely intervene to stop anti-Asian harassment, passing federal legislation, and re-distributing funds to smaller and less well-resourced organizations are all important actions in support of our anti-hate work and broader organizational mission. While we recognize these victories, we also acknowledge that much more work remains to be done to help Asian Americans assert their rights, access services, and seek justice, even as we continue our efforts to build safe and thriving communities.
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Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC is fighting for civil rights and empowering Asian Americans to create a more just America for all.