Home News Center Anti-Racism Resource: Ways Youth Justice Advocates Can Address Anti-Asian Hate

Anti-Racism Resource: Ways Youth Justice Advocates Can Address Anti-Asian Hate

March 24, 2021
Anna November

A year ago, we grappled with fear and confusion at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the disturbing effects of the pandemic’s spread was an uptick in racism and xenophobia toward people of Asian descent, and we released a resource with guidance on speaking up against xenophobia. A year later, the disturbing uptick in racism and xenophobia has played out in a staggering increase in anti-Asian violence and bias incidents. Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting and advocacy group, has collected reports of 3,795 hate incidents between March 19th, 2020 and February 28th, 2021. In response to this increase, President Biden recently released a memorandum condemning racism against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

Some police departments, including the New York Police Department, have created task forces to specifically address anti-Asian violence. However, such responses raise alarms about how a greater police presence would lead to the increased criminalization of people of color and perpetuate existing racial disparities. Kham Moua, head of the policy portfolio at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, recently told NBC News, "We think people should be given an opportunity to try to change. Having a task force focus, even if it's framed as protecting Asian Americans, is focused on punitive measures and doesn't create space and room for change.” 

Asian-American leaders who have been working alongside other racial justice activists of color also raise concerns about emerging narratives that pit communities of color against one another.  Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland, recently told NBC News: “If addressing violence against Asian Americans entails furthering stereotypes about Black criminality and the policies associated with those stereotypes … we’ve misdiagnosed the problem.”  

Community-based, AAPI-led organizations are doing the work to combat racism in a productive way through mutual aid, pressure on legislators to enact meaningful policy, and community-based approaches. As we think about ways to support such efforts, youth justice advocates have an opportunity to:

  1. Push back on calls for increased police presence in communities of color;
  2. Elevate restorative and transformative justice practices, which offer alternative approaches to responding with greater police involvement; and  
  3. Promote multi-racial solidarity.

Pushing back on calls for increased police presence in communities of color:

Communities of color are already over-policed and disproportionately represented in the carceral state. Increasing police presence in response to anti-Asian hate crimes risks exacerbating such racial disparities while also funneling the rise of mass incarceration tied to immigration detention and deportation.

Resources for Further Reading 

Elevating restorative and transformative justice practices:

Both restorative and transformative justice approaches strive to acknowledge the harm done by a crime and address it with those involved, avoiding the justice system all together. They also emphasize healing for all parties and seek to address the root causes of incidents. Because of this, restorative and transformative justice approaches offer a framework to allow victims of hate crimes and bias incidents to heal while also working to prevent further violence.

Resources for Further Reading 

  • “Repairing The Harms Of Hate Crime: Towards A Restorative Justice Approach?” By Mark Austin Walters, University of Sussex. Walters’ research concludes that restorative justice, when enacted correctly, can address the root causes of hate and hate incidents, succeeding where hate crime legislation often fails, and he offers indicators of success for restorative justice facilitators. 

  • “Transformative Justice: A Brief Description” By Mia Mingus, for Transformharm.org. This article offers an overview of how transformative justice works emphasizing the need to transform the conditions that lead to acts of violence. Such an approach can help identify the root cause of anti-Asian bias and violence and help communities respond to and proactively prevent violence without introducing police involvement.

  • “Transformative Justice: A Curriculum Guide” Project NIA, Fall 2013. This curriculum guide helps organizations learn about transformative justice, offers an overview of the relationship between restorative and transformative justice approaches, both of which are important tools to learn about in ending mass incarceration and addressing incidents without police intervention.

Promoting multi-racial solidarity:

The recent spike in anti-Asian violence has reintroduced narratives that pit Asian and other communities of color against one another - a conflict rooted in the “Model Minority Myth.” Writing in Yes! Magazine, Michelle Kim explains that the Model Minority Myth, “is the problematic portrayal of Asians as a monolithic group of quiet, hard-working, politically silent, and therefore ‘well-behaved’ immigrants,” and “runs deep in the American psyche.” The myth was created in the 1960s, in part as a way to discredit Black Americans’ efforts to obtain civil rights; portraying Asian Americans as a group that improved their status through hard work afforded a narrative that could deny the systemic policy demands of Black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. The myth continues to be used as a wedge to pit Asian Americans against other communities of color. Promoting multiracial solidarity in youth justice advocacy is a critical step to disrupt the racist Model Minority Myth and transform systems that harm all communities of color.

Resources for Further Reading 

  • “Why the Trope of Black-Asian Conflict in the Face of Anti-Asian Violence Dismisses Solidarity” by Jennifer Lee and Tiffany Huang, Brookings Institution, 11 March 2021. The trope of Black-Asian conflict has been weaponized to avoid addressing the root causes of anti-Asian hate and the systems that allow it to continue. As Lee and Huang state in their article, “not only does the frame of two minoritized groups in conflict ignore the role of white national populism, but it also absolves the history and systems of inequality that positioned them there.” Explaining the recent spike in anti-Asian sentiment as a problem related to conflict between two minority groups creates a false narrative, ignores the role that white supremacy plays, and prevents progress toward solving the issue.   

  • “The History of Tensions — and Solidarity — Between Black and Asian American Communities, Explained” by Jerusalem Demsas and Rachel Ramirez, Vox, 16 March, 2021. Pitting minority groups against one another is a tactic that has a long history. This article provides an overview of how the trope of Black-Asian conflict was created and why it is a false narrative that is used to avoid acknowledging the racist systems that oppress all minority groups.

Let us know what else you'd like to see in our Anti-Racism Resource section and how we can help your organization build towards anti-racist youth justice advocacy. Email ideas or questions to mcswain@njjn.org.  

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