CRS Responds to Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Over the past year, reports of bias incidents and hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals have increased in communities across the country. Xenophobia and the rise of misinformation about the coronavirus have led to reports of harassment on public transportation, denial of hotel reservations, verbal harassment, and physical attacks.
As the pandemic enters its second year, anti-AAPI incidents continue, drawing national attention. The White House has made addressing anti-AAPI incidents a top priority, stating “the federal government should combat racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and should work to ensure that all members of AAPI communities — no matter their background, the language they speak, or their religious beliefs — are treated with dignity and equity.” The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is coordinating its efforts across components to support AAPI communities, including initiating community outreach and engagement programs and addressing gaps in hate crimes reporting. DOJ has also translated resources on reporting and addressing hate crimes into commonly spoken AAPI languages and created a webpage with up-to-date information on its response.
Recognizing the need to coordinate responses across the country and share information, CRS began meeting with national and local AAPI organizations in early 2020, to address community concerns about the rise in anti-AAPI incidents and individuals’ safety during the pandemic. CRS continues sharing resources and information between communities and federal agencies, as well as working with government leaders, faith leaders, community groups, universities, and schools to help them build the capacity to address and prevent hate crimes.
Educating Communities about Hate Crimes
In 2020, CRS collaborated with local district attorney’s offices, law enforcement, and AAPI community leaders to respond to a series of assaults on AAPI community members in New York and New Jersey. This collaboration led to a series of virtual Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forums that drew 100 participants together online to share information about reporting bias incidents and hate crimes in New York and New Jersey. In the summer of 2020, the New York Police Department launched the Asian Hate Crimes Task Force, which includes more than 20 Asian American officers who speak second languages and will work directly with AAPI communities to increase trust in the police and address communication challenges.
The Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum is a facilitated dialogue program to provide community members and law enforcement with information related to federal, state, and local hate crimes laws and to engage law enforcement and community advocacy organizations in discussions on methods to combat and respond to bias incidents and hate crimes.
Opening Communication with Community Leaders
In early 2021, CRS responded to community fear and tension in the San Francisco Bay Area following dozens of reports of racial slurs, vandalism, threats, assaults, and two fatal attacks on AAPI elders. Although not all these incidents have been prosecuted as hate crimes, in many cases, the community has perceived incidents as racially motivated.
CRS has worked with local law enforcement, AAPI community leaders, Black and Latino faith leaders, AAPI youth, and other community leaders to facilitate timely and accurate information to the community on reporting and investigative processes. Amid the rollout of community-organized patrol groups and rumors about retaliatory violence, CRS facilitated communication with communities and local officials to de-escalate tensions. CRS also worked with AAPI groups and local law enforcement in San Francisco to produce and release a public service announcement in AAPI languages with information on reporting crimes. To help promote peace in these communities, conciliation specialists established connections between non-AAPI organizations and AAPI groups to develop and release statements against bias and hate and lead solidarity events.
CRS worked with law enforcement to improve methods on how to engage with AAPI communities in culturally appropriate ways. This included identifying language access needs, making connections with community leaders, and assisting with navigating cultural sensitivities.
Maintaining Safe and Peaceful Rallies and Public Events
Following fatal shootings at three Asian-owned massage parlors in the Atlanta metropolitan area in March 2021, CRS convened a meeting with AAPI faith leaders, AAPI social service groups, pan-Asian community leaders, and diverse allies who planned several rallies and prayer vigils in the Atlanta area against hate and bias. CRS also facilitated communication with local law enforcement and civic leaders to raise awareness of planned prayer vigils and marches and share AAPI community concerns about the potential for counterprotest or violence. Local law enforcement also requested CRS’s support of police efforts to work with the community to develop culturally appropriate responses to these incidents.
CRS continues to work closely with communities to de-escalate tensions in the aftermath of perceived racially motivated incidents against AAPI individuals. Conciliation specialists work directly with community leaders to understand their concerns and identify CRS services that can meet their needs. In addition to programs such as the Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum, CRS conciliation specialists are experienced in facilitated dialogues services that can help communities open lines of communication among groups, such as government leaders, law enforcement, and community organizations, and allow each party to share perspectives on a problem and underlying issues of the conflict. The dialogues help communities develop action plans for building trust and strengthening relationships between groups and resolving conflicts. CRS conciliation specialists play a critical role in providing technical assistance to help law enforcement leaders remain sensitive to the cultures of affected communities and communicate effectively.
For more information about the services CRS offers to help communities address concerns in the wake of these incidents, visit the CRS website.