For many of us, the terror of the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings targeting Asian-Americans remains fresh in our minds. Seeing media coverage of such intense hatred may have seemed like news to some, but hate crimes impacting minority groups in America have only increased in recent years.
The STAATUS (Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the U.S.) Index, a comprehensive annual assessment of attitudes and stereotypes about Asian Americans, collected responses via online surveys from 5,113 adults in early 2022. The results tell us that anti-AANHPI hate crimes increased 339% since 2021, and despite recent news coverage, 37% of white Americans remain unaware of the increase in assaults, hate crimes, or other forms of racism against Asian Americans during the past 12 months.
To help the world heal from racism-fueled acts of hatred, dedicated individuals joined forces to create organizations like The Asian American Foundation (TAAF). CASL was honored to be selected by TAAF in 2022 to operate an Anti-Hate Action Center in the Midwest, with goals of increasing reporting and expanding awareness and education through proactive outreach. Manager of the Anti-Hate Action Center, Abbey Eusebio, is determined to activate positive change for the AANHPI communities and beyond in fighting hate crimes.
“One of our main priorities continues to be addressing the chronic underreporting here in the Midwest. Through guidance and consultation with TAAF and the Sikh Coalition, we’re working on messaging around our community needs and communicating to the AANHPI community that it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to ask questions about hate crimes and hate incidents—especially to see if something they experienced actually is a hate crime or hate incident,” she explained.
Expanding Awareness at the Community Level and Beyond
Eusebio has spent the year working hard with Kevin Amaro, Community Engagement Specialist at CASL, to reach as many people in Chicago and surrounding areas with specialized curriculum and workshops focused on expanding awareness of hate crimes, as well as providing anti-bullying workshops to Pui Tak Center, Project Vision and other organizations that have shown interest in working with CASL to expand awareness around anti-Asian hate.
“We’re working to expand outreach and equip businesses and public entities with skills and knowledge to be able to address a hate crime and make sure they understand that they can also help combat anti-Asian hate,” Eusebio explained.
Sharing specialized curriculum and workshops with universities and colleges has also been a priority, so that both students and faculty can benefit from more awareness of the toxic effects of anti-Asian hate. “We talk to youth about the Model Minority Myth, and how that affects the mental health of AANHPI youth. We’re really trying to support the work of TAAF in making sure all Asian Americans feel that they do belong in our society—particularly with Asian American youth. They need to know that they do belong and they don’t have to succumb to the pressures of the Model Minority Myth and the feeling of being a perpetual foreigner and being seen as being more loyal to their family’s home country versus here in the U.S., particularly if they are U.S.-born.”
Making the Anti-Hate Action Center Actionable
The biggest challenge with becoming a fully operational action center has been navigating the ambiguity of the fairly newer work around coordination, said Eusebio. “While we all know anti-Asian hate has been around for decades, the AANHPI community hasn’t needed more coordinated efforts yet to address it. The Atlanta spa shootings was a turning point and the AANHPI community said that enough is enough. TAAF saw the need to create more of a coordinated effort nationally to supplement and support the already ongoing efforts of existing nonprofits and government agencies.” The organization created a two-prong approach in their response: implementing a national network and then piloting three AANHPI action centers, CASL in the Midwest, Asian Health Services in Oakland, and the Asian American Federation in New York.
“What is promising is that there does seem to be more of an investment in preventing more anti-Asian hate and creating more awareness so people actually know that it does exist, and that our stories, our voices, really matter—and all of our experiences around anti-Asian hate should be taken seriously,” said Eusebio.
The Anti-Hate Action Center identifies the “why” of its work as driven by three important factors: accessibility, visibility, and equity. Making sure community members have equal access and understanding of how to utilize resources for help is key, and promoting visibility so that community members know that their stories matter. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure to prevent any more anti-Asian rhetoric, harassment, verbal slurs—really making sure that it doesn’t escalate into more.”
The action center prioritizes tracking of incidents through real-time reporting, as well as working with law enforcement and government agencies to equip people with the right knowledge and resources to define and respond to hate crimes accordingly. Additionally, the action center focuses on prevention efforts through workshops, educational resources and awareness initiatives so that reporting can improve.
Break the Stigma and Report It
According to an update in October 2022 from the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations, 77 hate crimes had been reported to the commission—a 71% increase from the 45 reported to the commission through the same period last year. In addition to hate crimes reported to the commission, the Chicago Police Department received reports of 120 hate crimes during the same time period.
Eusebio emphasizes challenges with cultural stigma associated with reporting crimes and asking for help within the AANHPI community. “That stigma definitely still exists, and it’s something we’re trying to combat through our awareness and outreach education efforts. It’s a very important for a hate crime survivor to take back some control of the situation they’re in.
“Another reason for chronic underreporting is language access, particularly for our immigrant community. When English is not their first language, it is very overwhelming. It can create a lot of anxiety to even think about approaching law enforcement, or even a nonprofit to report a negative experience, particularly. That has always been an issue in causes of underreporting.” Fear of law enforcement, and lack of confidence that the reports will be followed up with are also issues, Eusebio noted.
When a person comes to CASL to respond to a hate crime, CASL first works to gather all the details of the case, then follows a trauma-informed care approach which involves connecting the individual to mental health resources immediately through our behavioral health clinic. We also connect the individual with resources support through our legal services department, and assist them with filling out applications like the Crime Victims Compensation application administered through the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
CASL understands the importance of standing in as an advocate for hate crime victims, as well as helping them process the trauma and clearly understand the path forward in addressing what happened to them. No one has to suffer in silence.
If you or someone you know believes they may be targeted by anti-Asian sentiment or is the victim of a hate crime, we encourage you to access CASL’s Anti-Hate Action Center and contact us for help. We look forward to assisting you.