As hate crimes against Asian Americans continue to rise, Eyewitness News hosted a town hall to shed light on the disturbing uptick in unprovoked attacks.
NINA PINEDA: And good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for a very important conversation about Stop The Hate. We are-- this is an Eyewitness News social town hall.
We have a very exciting panel here to talk to you for the next hour. And thank you to everyone who's coming in and joining us on ABC7 New York. Our website, we will be streaming live here as well as across our connected TV apps.
Since the pandemic began, 3,000 crimes against Asian-Americans, 3,000 since the pandemic began. And we're only one year in. It's an alarming statistic and one that we are going to address here over the next hour about why it's happening and more importantly, how we can stop the hate.
Joining us on our panel, and we give a very warm welcome to Congresswoman from Queens Grace Meng. She is joining us. This is her fifth term in the US House of Representatives. She is the first and only Asian-American member of Congress from New York state and the first female Congresswoman from Queens since former Vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Welcome to you, Congresswoman Meng.
Also joining us is Yasmeen Hamza. She is the CEO for Womankind. Womankind is a non-profit, formerly the New York Asian Women's Center, offering survivors of gender-based violence refuge, renewal recovery. Womankind operates a 24 hour hotline in multiple languages as well as three safe havens for families and individuals across New York City.
We're lucky enough to have Joo Han, the Deputy Director for the Asian-American Federation. AAF is really the umbrella group for dozens of organizations, I think 70 community based organizations here across New York. Just had a rally this weekend to address the issue of crimes against Asians.
And Joo Han has some specific things she wanted to speak to us about that we can do immediately to try to stem this tide. And also, we have to have a millennial, right? It's Rej Joo. He is with the Center for Anti Violence Education.
And for the last four years, Rej has been really the program director, talking about self-defense and empowerment and how to protect yourself on the street. Very real, very tangible things that are facing our community and unfortunately people that look like us. I want to kick things off with our social town hall here down to lower Manhattan where CeFaan Kim is in the field.
He is actually outside the DA's office. CeFaan will be participating in a special with ABC network tonight on ABC News live and has been really on the front lines for us, covering bias crime across the city. And there was just another incident last night. CeFaan, just fill us in on what's been happening on our streets and what you've witnessed.
CEFAAN KIM: Yeah, thanks, Nina. I mean, first of all, I think we do need to address the language in describing what has been happening. Stop The Hate has been this rallying cry and hashtag trending. But to be clear, these are not all hate crimes per se.
The legal criteria to meet a hate crime is not necessarily what defines everything that we're describing here. Some of these incidents are, at the root of it, a result of mental health struggles. Some of them are crimes of opportunity. Some of them are all of the above.
It's really hard to tell. It's a complicated issue, right? And I think the proper way to describe this is unprovoked attacks against Asian-Americans, many of whom are vulnerable of the senior citizens of that nature, and their violent, which is why this is catching our attention. But let's be clear on why we've reached this inflection point, and I think we have, on having this conversation.
I don't think that we could be having this conversation had it not been for the historic civil rights movement that we witnessed in the summertime. Without BLM, without George Floyd, we would not be here today. And I say that because for the longest time, it's no secret that this summer was the first time we saw inter-racially everyone united and standing together and marching together.
And I think what's happening now is the community is saying please reciprocate that solidarity. We were there for our black and brown brothers and sisters when they needed us. And we're calling on you to stand with us now. And we are seeing that. And that's been inspiring in fact.
I don't think that we would be here again unless we went through that moment because that set the template, that set the conversations. Why this is happening? I get that asked a lot.
I don't think that there's really a clear answer. I have a theory. I have no way to prove this.
But my theory is that this has always been happening. I was born and raised in this country in this skin. I have experienced racial bias my entire life whether it's been as a child, in school, or in the military. I think, though, what's happening, though, is that not it's a sudden uptick in crime. It's that we are speaking out.
We're having this conversation publicly. Now, it's no secret to say that Asian-Americans are not culturally accustomed to wearing and speaking about our pain and trauma publicly. This is not something that we're used to doing. And I think what's happened is when I was able to get one victim after another, after another to speak out, there was this snowball effect. I think that each victim felt that they were speaking out publicly for a larger purpose.
And I'm not just speculating that. They've each told me that's the case. After each victim comes forward, they no longer feel alone in this matter. And so I think that that's really what's going on here is that finally whether the community is fed up or that finally it's woken up to see the need to speak publicly, that's the inflection point we've reached. And again, I don't think this is in a microscope that you can look at this. This is an ongoing civil rights movement that we've seen from the summertime, and I think now is carrying over into this situation.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, and, CeFaan, you mentioned language. And we've all unfortunately had to interview someone after what we may presume is a bias attack. And they will have talked to the police. And the police will have asked them was something said? Was an ethnic slur used? Did the person see your face?
There's all this talk now about you were attacked from the back. So were you a victim of a hate crime? You had a conversation with former Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. And what is happening with how we're classifying this and how they're being prosecuted?
CEFAAN KIM: That's a good question. So that's actually why we're down here right now outside the Manhattan DA's office. So let me set up the background here. This very violent stabbing on Thursday night, when a 36-year-old Chinatown resident was walking home, he was stabbed in his back with an 8" kitchen knife. And the very following day, NYPD had charged him with a hate crime.
Within a day, though, the Manhattan DA dropped that charge. Now, there's some disagreement to say the least, outrage in the community that that was done so hastily. Now this is in my piece tonight. But we have legal experts wondering why that happened so quickly.
But Bob Boyce comes right out and says that he doesn't believe that should have been dropped. In fact, the argument was made is that the DA says that there's no way for the suspect, the alleged assailant in this case to have known his victims race because the victim was wearing a mask and a hat. Yet, the suspect allegedly admitted to investigators when he turned himself in the cops, quote, "I didn't like the way he looked at me."
Now common sense would deduce that, if you made eye contact and the most recognizable facial feature of an Asian man is his eyes, then you certainly knew he was an Asian man. So Bob Boyce takes that position on this. There's a lot more he says on this matter in general.
I don't want to give it all away now because we do have a fuller piece coming up tonight at 8 o'clock on ABC News live and 11:00 on Eyewitness News. But the bottom line is, how do they categorize or rather communicate how they investigate these crimes has been something that we've been able to sort of clarify because this goes back to July when that 89-year-old grandmother in Brooklyn was lit on fire by two perpetrators.
And basically then, the frustration in the community was why so quickly rule out the possibility of a hate crime? No one's saying to categorize it as such or prosecute as such. But at least leave no stone unturned.
And I think what happened was as a result, we know for a fact that the NYPD created it's very first ever Asian hate crimes task force. But fast forward to this past month or so, and yet again we keep hearing within an hour of an assault, just because no words were exchanged, that the hate crime possibility was ruled out.
So look, we found victim after victim after victim. And I think that put some pressure on the NYPD, and credit to them. They put up this commanding officer to hate crimes task force.
And he most certainly clarified what's really happening here. I think this was a miscommunication. I think the truth was what the NYPD was doing was actually quite satisfactory to what the community wanted. But it wasn't being communicated that way.
The point is that in every one of these incidents with an Asian victim where no words are exchanged, absent again Bob Boyce's point here, any other obvious motive, you have to most certainly by common sense at least look at the possibility of a hate crime. So in these matters, the hate crimes task force has been interviewing all of these victims, meaning that possibility was always there from the get-go.
And I think it took for us to really sit down one on one to really figure out and clarify what's really going on here. And so that's the second inflection point. All of a sudden now, there is this clearer communication between the community and law enforcement about what really are the efforts in this investigatory process.
So oftentimes we keep hearing-- and it's confusing because no words are exchanged, no racial slurs, that this can't be a hate crime. That is certainly not the case anymore. And immediately after we sat down one on one with the hate crimes task force commanding officer, the NYPD reversed the way they communicate, how they investigate potential bias crimes. And now what they're saying is in any incident when no words are exchanged, unprovoked without any other obvious motive, they will most certainly look at that possibility. And that meant a great deal to the community that they're at least looking at that possibility.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, that's big news. That is unprecedented for that to have that clarification. And CeFaan, I know you'll be on Eyewitness News coming up in less than an hour here at 5:00 o'clock and also on your special tonight on ABC News live. Can you just fill us in on a little bit, our panelists and the audience watching, what that is?
CEFAAN KIM: Yeah, sure, at 8:00, we have a one hour special with the network, ABC news. It'll be streaming on ABC News live as you mentioned. It'll be co-hosted by our colleagues at the network Juju Chang and Eva Pilgrim. Obviously, our work here at Eyewitness News will be prominently featured.
It is certainly most certainly shaped the national discussion on this issue. We'll also be joined by some colleagues at our [INAUDIBLE] our ABS aff-- [INAUDIBLE] San Francisco, Dion Lim, who has been doing a tremendous job on this issue in the Bay Area as we all know the Bay Area has been plagued with the same situation. And our colleague Nydia Han in Philadelphia at WPVI-- who herself has been a victim of some racial bias.
And we've got some star power here. We have Jeremy Lin, who has spoken up recently about the racial slurs that he's heard on the basketball court. Actor Daniel Dae Kim and Olivia Munn. We know that Daniel Dae Kim has been very outspoken on this issue. And Olivia Munn has a personal connection here.
She's not only half Asian. But her friend's mother was the victim who was seen violently shoved by that man in Flushing a few weeks back. So it's going to be a robust and I think very thoughtful conversation. I hope that we can really get into a lot of these issues in an hour long conversation. I hope everyone can join us.
NINA PINEDA: Thank you so much, CeFaan. And congratulations to you. And the team here at Eyewitness News has certainly been pushing this and really getting answers and results.
So we're going to look forward to your conversation with the Chief of Detectives, former Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce tonight. And we'll let you go back to your work there downtown. Thank you, CeFaan.
He'll be listening in. So I'm sure if our panelists and audience has more questions, we can direct them to CeFaan. And the rest of us will be attempting to answer those as well. Thanks, CeFaan. Good luck tonight.
CEFAAN KIM: Thank you for having me.
NINA PINEDA: All right, that was enlightening to say the least. CeFaan had some breaking news there about how the language is going to be changed and how really, there is some thought that every crime, while you don't know, should be classified as a hate crime. And that's always been a very sensitive thing.
We talked about 3,000 incidents across the United States, I think, 50 in New York City. And that's where I wanted to talk to Congresswoman Grace Meng, the Congresswoman from Queens. There's been several in your district. And you have actually proposed legislation to try and really push organizations and law enforcement in a direction where we start acknowledging and recognizing this and making some changes, Congressman Meng.
GRACE MENG: Sure, well, first of all, Nina, I want to thank you for convenieng us today onto you and CeFaan and the station for giving our community a platform to raising these issues to ensure that the struggles and the hurts of our community is no longer invisible. And so it's an honor to be here also with our community activists, our organizers, who take care of our community members every single day. And so I'm honored to join them with all of you here today.
This has been a really tough year for this country, but especially for the AAPI community. It is about a year now where our community has not only been suffering from the virus of coronavirus but also this virus of discrimination and bigotry. And in fact, here in New York, we've seen that even before the virus actually hit us here in New York, our small businesses and community members had already been experiencing small bigotry and instances of discrimination from verbal to physical.
People are afraid to go to Asian-American owned businesses because they thought that they might catch the coronavirus there. And so we've heard way too many stories. Groups like Stop AAPI Hate have collected over 3,000 incidents already.
And who knows how many more have occurred but just have not been reported. Last year, I, like so many people in our community, was really heartbroken to hear about this. I was also really hurt that our former president was using words like Chinese virus and Kung Flu. And I really thought that that, in many ways, directly emboldened some of these racist attacks.
And so what Congress did, what we did was we wrote a symbolic resolution. We just wanted to make sure that we were taking a public stance to say that Congress stands against bigotry towards Asians. It was a very symbolic and bipartisan piece of legislation.
And unfortunately, over a hundred of my colleagues voted against that. But we really wanted to make sure that our elected officials, our leaders in government understood what our community was going through and that they were able to publicly denounce it. So we've been working on-- we passed a resolution last year, obviously.
And we will continue to push it. It's being led in the Senate by Senator Mazie Hirono. And last year it was led by now Vise President then Senator Kamala Harris. We also know that President Biden signed his executive memorandum that basically had language of my resolution and two other of my bills, which are hopefully more impactful in the sense that it directs the federal government, for example, the DOJ, Justice Department, to collect data and to provide more resources.
Before we can fully address problems like this and before we can find a solution, we need to know and better understand the full scope of the problem and what government needs to be doing more of. And so we're thankful for his memorandum. But we know that a lot more has to be done.
NINA PINEDA: Thank you, Congresswoman Meng. I want to ask the panelists. The Congresswoman brought up the language that has surrounded the coronavirus and the slurs that were used that are not unfamiliar to anybody sitting on this panel.
Joo Han, with the Asian-American Federation, there are some reports that there's been 115% increase in bias crime since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. What are you seeing as the umbrella group for so many organizations and hearing about the connection between the language from leadership surrounding the coronavirus and what people in your member organizations are experiencing?
JOO HAN: Yeah, I would say it's very much what the Congresswoman pointed out, which is there is a direct correlation between the language being used by our national leaders or what were used by our national leaders. I was just on a call with a school talking about how kids are just repeating the Chinese virus, that kind of language in the classroom because that's what they're hearing.
And the reports that we've collected, the majority mirrors what Stop AAPI Hate has collected, which is the majority of incidents are verbal assaults, which are no less harmful than the physical assaults that we've been hearing about recently, but much along the same lines of the Chinese virus, Wuhan, the scapegoating just because there has been obviously so much hurt and pain that the country has gone through, the world has gone through, that they're looking for a target.
And to the congresswoman's point, there's been so much that our community has experienced on top of COVID, which was under reporting of the death of loss of loved ones, as well as just the highest unemployment rate increase among all racial groups in New York City has been among Asians. And then on top of that, , to be scapegoated and to be targeted when people are just trying to survive has been really, I think, just heartbreaking and I think traumatic for many of our committee members. And that language, it can easily that-- when you have very racist language, can easily escalate into physical violence. We know that that's not unconnected.
NINA PINEDA: And we're talking about these numbers. But as we know in the Asian community, this is widely underreported. And let me bring in Yasmeen Hamza with Womankind, formerly the New York Asian Women's Center. So Yasmeen, you deal with survivors all the time. And one of the factors that's at play here in the Asian community is there's a real deep sense of shame on family shame, cultural shame that many survivors may not even be reporting this at all if ever.
YASMEEN HAMZA: Yes, so thank you, Nina. As an organization who's had almost four decades of working with survivors of gender based violence, who many are victims of crime, oftentimes we find that law enforcement may not be the avenue that they want to use to be able to access support. And so we've seen a lot of underreporting when they've experienced any forms of crime just because it's not-- for them, it's not a typical resource that they may access. And that may not be the avenue that they want to go.
They may want to be able to seek other supports or resources within the community. And during this time with the uptake of crimes, violence against Asian-Americans, what we've seen happen to survivors of domestic violence is as there's also been a rise of domestic violence incidences, that fear and the trauma, it gets compounded. They're seeing that externally walking outside of their house, being able to access resources is unsafe. But at the same time, internally within their homes, it's unsafe. And so I think with this rise, it marginalizes communities that are already vulnerable within the Asian community as a whole. And just that lack of access to resources that we saw during COVID and that other panelists have spoken about has really had an even further impact on survivors of domestic violence.
NINA PINEDA: And when you talk about the resistance to reach out to law enforcement that I think is present in any community of color, they are looking for other ways and other resources to protect themselves. And Rej Joo, you're with the Center for Anti Violence Education. Have you experienced a jump up in enrollment because Asian-Americans in our city are fearful of going outside and need to know how to protect themselves?
REJ JOO: Oh, absolutely. I echo what everyone has said already. We've been serving vulnerable population people in communities that experience violence disproportionately for almost 50 years now. And more recently, I think we've been getting more people of Asian descent signing up for our self-defense classes, our de-escalation classes.
And I also want to add that this level of violence that Asian communities are experiencing, there's even within our communities. There's a disparity around gender that women are 2 and 1/2 times more likely-- Asian women are 2 and 1/2 times more likely to be the victims or survivors of these harassment, and/or violence. And so we certainly see way more people of Asian descent signing up for our classes.
NINA PINEDA: Did that spike come during the pandemic?
REJ JOO: Yes, and increasingly so. This is something that I definitely anticipated right when COVID started with Trump saying things like Kung Flu. And I knew that we were going to get an uptick. And more so than ever I think in the last few months, yeah, definitely more so.
And I also want to highlight our organization is working to prevent hate violence as well as gender based violence. And while all of this is happening, I think what was hard for us is being able-- seeing so many different marginalized communities being targeted, and not just API, but transgender women of color. I don't know if some of you are aware. But last year, it was the deadliest year for them.
There were 44 murders of trans people during the pandemic but when everyone's supposedly home. So our organization is not-- we've considered our communities that just-- in general, in our communities that are often overlooked or may not be able to feel safe enough to voice their own trauma and violence. And so this is a very, very important moment that we can gather community based solutions, community organizing, supporting one another, and gathering resources.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, I didn't know that. I did not know that, Rej Joo. That is disturbing. And I took a look at some of the videos you have online just about how you stand on the street and if you're going to have-- if you're going to be standing-- Asians have that perception that you're like meek and submissive.
And you're teaching people that you have to stand with one foot back. You have stand with your hands in front of you. You can't stand there like this because you're not going be ready if somebody is going to strike you in the face. So I found that really interesting.
And I know that with AAF, you had a rally this past weekend. And Joo, you were talking about basics. We're talking big picture issues here that go back centuries about perception of Asians and racism. But through the rally and some of the other initiatives from AAF, you're talking about just basic-- let's focus on street safety. What are we doing at a very local, very basic level to protect ourselves?
JOO HAN: Yeah, and I think the federation, for over 30 years, we've been the research advocacy leader of the Asian community, trying to address the most urgent issues. So when we see an urgent issue like COVID, like anti-Asian violence, we have to step in because there just really aren't any resources. So right now, I think what people are asking for, too, is that they're not necessarily going back to this point of reporting and underreporting.
When you ask victims what is it that you want, they say I just want to be safe. And I just want to know that these perpetrators aren't going to do it again to somebody else. And we've seen that.
We've seen one person down later in the day attack other Asian community members. So for them, I think what's important, too, is that they get support. It's not just about everything being classified as a hate crime.
But we want to support them. They don't have physical safety now. They don't have psychological safety.
And so this sense of how do we create that as a community for people who are targeted, but also for people who are anticipating getting attacked, which is another thing that we're hearing a lot about. It's just so much of witnessing these assaults that get picked up by media are so violent, that people are feeling traumatized just by watching it, and just fearing that they, their kids, their parents might get targeted next.
So yeah, with [INAUDIBLE] with Rej, we created these safety videos and language just so people know how to position themselves, orient themselves if they get targeted. And they're not in a position just to feel like I'm going to get victimized. Let me just wait for that to happen. There's some agency that they can use to defend themselves in those situations.
NINA PINEDA: And why have you-- Joo, tell me about the rise up against hate, the rally, this weekend. It took place blocks away from where a 36-year-old man was attacked. And you had a speaker whose face was slashed. I mean, who participated and what kind of response did you get from the community with this weekend's rally?
JOO HAN: I mean, it was just an outpouring of support. Even with the rain, we had hundreds of New Yorkers show up. We had the Congresswoman. We had elected leaders show up.
And to say like we can't just be silent anymore, this has been going on for a year. And now we're seeing what's been happening because of the silence because of not highlighting it in media and not addressing it as a valuable crisis or as an important crisis that we need to address. So it's been great.
I think that that shows that people are not only fed up. But they want to do something. I think that the inquiry that we've gotten before and after the rally has been what can I do as a New Yorker to make sure that my community of New Yorkers is safe? And we did that actually-- it was an emergency rally that we organized in about a week. And we did it because Noel volunteers for an organization called the Migrant Center.
And Father Julian, who's one of our partner organizations, reached out to us and said, how can we help Noel? He's just been targeted. He has these hospital bills.
He's traumatized. How do we support him? So we started to work with elected officials. We're working with the city.
And the response just felt too slow and not enough. It was almost like conversations we had almost a year ago and that really hadn't evolved much. There was an attempt. I won't say that there wasn't an effort.
But it wasn't fast enough. It wasn't strong enough. And we wanted to say, hey, all of New York, elected leaders, let's come out and say, we don't want to put up with this anymore. Why do we have to? Are we waiting for one more person to get stabbed or slashed across the face or even potentially murdered for us to then to take attention? Let's put preventative measures in place so we don't have to have another loss in our community.
NINA PINEDA: And Noel Quintana was a 61-year-old Filipino American. He was slashed across the face. And it wasn't just the incident and the cameras and the event. There's longstanding issues facing him in his recovery.
JOO HAN: Yeah, and he-- right now we're trying to figure out how to support him. He was on his way to one of two jobs that he's juggling right now during COVID when he was attacked. So he's got hospital bills.
Obviously, there's-- I mean, I think his courage in his sharing his story time and again I think has been so important to spotlight this issue. But at the same time, we shouldn't have to rely on victims to retell their story multiple times and potentially be traumatized for us to pay attention. But there has to be support behind people like Noel, but people who haven't reported.
All the ways that my panelist, fellow panelists, have talked about, a lot of people quietly just dealing with it on their own. There's job loss that we've just talked about. There's mental health issues that we're talking about. And that shouldn't be something that they should have to shoulder on top of everything else they're going through.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, that's the trauma on top of that. We just wanted to welcome the people who may just be joining us. This is an Eyewitness News special social town hall. It's called Stop The Hate.
And we're streaming over our website ABC7NY.com as well as across our connected television apps. We have a panel who's joining us from the beginning. We heard from our reporter in the field CeFaan Kim, who had a sit down with former Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce about the way crime, bias crimes are investigated, the way they are labeled.
He will have more on Eyewitness News at 5:00 and 11:00. And he will also be on a network special on ABC News live at 8:00 PM called Stop The Hate-- The Rise of Violence Against Asian-Americans.
I'm joined by Congresswoman Grace Meng, who recently proposed some legislation in Congress to highlight the problems surrounding the violence against Asian-Americans. We also have Joo Han, the Deputy Director of the Asian-American Federation, really the umbrella group for about 70 nonprofits and charity based organizations across New York.
Yasmeen Hamza with Womankind. Womankind operates a multilingual hotline as well as three safe havens for victims or survivors of gender based violence across New York City and has been doing so for the last four decades. And we have Rej Joo, who is with the Center for Anti Violence Education in New York.
Rej, I called you a millennial earlier. But I don't even know the age groups now. We're so far away from millennials, went to Gen X, Gen Y. Your age group is considered millennial, right?
REJ JOO: I think so. I mean, I look maybe younger than I actually am. So but that's less of an importance. Yeah, so I guess one thing I wanted to add was just to emphasis on community based solutions as we continue to support individuals and communities, meaning as Yasmeen mentioned, a lot of survivors or victims of violence for multiple reasons do not feel safe reporting or even interacting with the legal system or the law enforcement.
And so how can we, whether we're friends or family members or strangers, when we witness someone being harassed or being-- when we see violence, how can we intervene? How can we help?
And those are questions I think a lot of us are asking. But we often don't have the tools. And so I think it's really important now more than ever to have various community resources where we increase our community education, not just among adults, but our youth. As someone here mentioned earlier that the level of bullying and the verbal harassment that happens with students because they just absorb everything that is around anti-Asian, that we can educate our young people because racism is taught. It's not-- someone isn't born racist. And so I think I want to emphasize that there are resources that we can collectively come together and provide to individuals and communities.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, and on that point, with resources, Congresswoman Meng, you said your legislation did get support from some of your colleagues in the House. Can you elaborate on that? And then is there-- I mean, can we help direct some funds to organizations like AAF and to Womankind and to Rej's group that are teaching self-defense?
I mean, where is the divide there where you didn't get unanimous support for something like your resolution, which is just trying to raise awareness about the fact that there were 3,000 incidents-- what do you want to call them-- hate crimes or bias incidents against people that look like the folks on this panel, including myself, since the pandemic began? I mean, where are with that? And who didn't support you?
GRACE MENG: 164 of them. I can provide a list if you want, not that I'm holding grudges. But so the resolution was largely symbolic.
We thought that it was a really easy way for elected officials on both sides of the party, isle, to say to their constituents and our community across the country that they're upset about us being targeted and that they stand with us. Apparently it was too big of an ask to ask of some people. But we also have other legislation that we're working on.
So we have a hate crimes bill for example specifically related to COVID. We are asking for the Biden administration and the Department of Justice to allocate more resources and personnel specifically dedicated to AAPI communities in light of COVID-19 and what's been happening for at least throughout the past year. We are here today with obviously many of our community groups and leaders. And they need more resources because they are literally on the front lines every single day, working with people in our community.
We need more resources. I think Rej Joo mentioned, Yasmeen mentioned about our everyday Asian-Americans in the community who need to know more basics, know about COVID. From the beginning, we haven't had enough resources. And we haven't had enough in multiple languages.
And look, honestly, if the government's not going to do it, at least let's give our community groups the resources to do it, from testing to vaccines today. If you are a grandmother who doesn't speak English and who doesn't have a computer to access vaccine appointments, good luck, right? They've been depending on just random people that they know or community organizations. And so bottom line is we need more resources.
I also want to take a moment to thank so many of our allies at the rally that AAF Federation hosted last Saturday. We have seen a more stronger showing from mainstream elected officials than we have in the past. We had Mayor de Blasio.
We had Attorney General Tish James. We had Senator and Majority Leader of the United States Senate Chuck Schumer. So they are showing up, which is important.
But we are also making sure that we are working with them. Senator Schumer and I are working on legislation like the one we mentioned. We have to thank our allies.
CeFaan mentioned this earlier. Last year, during the Black Lives Matter protests, we saw a much more diverse showing of everyday folks standing up and with our black brothers and sisters than we've ever seen in the past. And now we are also very thankful for them standing with us.
The rally wasn't just a group of a few hundred Asian faces. It was a diverse group. And even in Congress, our leaders from the Black Caucus, the Hispanic caucus, our Native American members, they have been with us from the very beginning.
NINA PINEDA: And what do you think-- and feel free to jump in here, anyone on our panel. What do you think we owe that to, the level of violence, I mean, people being set on fire, the hit, spit on, the consistency, the numbers? I mean, like you said, this has been a very big year of movements. But why do you think, finally now, as Asian-Americans, you're getting that kind of-- we're getting that kind of mainstream support? Joo Han-- Yasmeen--
JOO HAN: Yeah, I think I want to say that obviously with the BLM uprising, which has been in years in the making, but the public consciousness realizing and seeing, again, the violence, the videos, oh my God, this is something that the black community goes through on a daily basis, and just being the lack of humanity, all of it, and then seeing that same repeat of-- so everyone is top of mind, I guess, for folks during COVID, and then seeing that again being repeated against the Asian community that the violence again is really-- Noel's face and the scars that we saw during the rally. And then of people just being shoved almost as though they're like a feather like across the street, these like older women.
It's just-- I think people are horrified. I mean, I think it's happening. But seeing these images for people makes it a reality whereas when you're just having, you're not really hearing about it, or you're just hearing through word of mouth, it's not a reality. But now people know that their neighbors or friends, committee members-- I mean, we've done workshops where we've had 50 people in a room. And we've said, who has been impacted directly or secondarily by anti-Asian-- and it's 100% of people have said I've been impacted.
So you think about that, and it's not something that is in a corner of our city. It's all across our city. And we're the fastest growing population not only in New York, but the country. We are also the poorest.
And we have-- half our Asian communities-- they don't speak English. When you think about all those combination of factors, and on top of that, the violence they have to go through, this physical violence, but also the systemic violence of not having language access, of being marginalized, I think people are starting to feel a sense that this is our community. How do we let this go? And I think it also just means that when you don't have safety for one group of people, whether it's the black community, Asian community, it means that everyone can potentially get targeted. That safety is no longer something that's guaranteed for anybody in New York or the country.
YASMEEN HAMZA: I want to also add, sorry, as an organization that works with pan-asians, survivors of gender based violence, what we've seen and want to highlight is there's been an uptick of violence against Asian-Americans due to COVID. But there's also been a long history of violence against Asian-Americans, just the history of this country. And recognizing how that has impacted the various communities that we work with but also recognizing the model minority myth and how that oftentimes pits Asian communities against communities of color, and oftentimes then does not allow for that understanding of the systematic oppression against Asian-Americans.
There has been, I think-- and what we've seen in history, there has been some work around Asian and Black solidarity within the Civil rights movement and within different movements within the country. And so how do we also take from those movements and continue that relationship building? I think Rej was talking about community based solutions. And some of those solutions is really that cross racial education and working in solidarity with communities of color to really address what is that underlying issue of racism.
And so how do we work to address that together and address it in ways that we can support one another? And it will be-- it'll address the systematic oppression that happens for communities of color in general.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, Yasmeen, that brings me-- we have a question from somebody in our audience. Ivan Gibster said, as you're saying there's widespread perception, you're not-- we may not be as involved as others or as visibly involved. If there is a rally on the street for Black Lives Matter, why are there not as many Asian faces? You're saying--
And we talked earlier. You said sometimes there's even disparity within our own communities about how we're going to work together. But how are we going to work together and show our support not only for ourselves if we're not out there on the streets marching as Ivan's asking with Black, Latino movements? How do we change this paradigm he asked, to show Asian support, and anyone can jump here, for our black and brown brothers and sisters?
REJ JOO: If I might add, I think the younger generation, they understand-- at least the more maybe socially conscious young folks understand that our liberation is founded by other people's liberation. I'm probably not butchering that phrase.
NINA PINEDA: We know what you mean.
REJ JOO: Right, you know what I'm saying. So I think it's showing up not only in-- and I want to point this out, too. I think social media and the frequency in which people can share information has attributed to how people in different communities that often maybe just be communicating with themselves might collaborate and build in solidarity with one another.
And so I think that is one unique thing about what we've been seeing over the last few years, especially around Black Lives Matter and how everyone's getting behind this, the privilege, or not privilege, but this high tech around getting footages of all these horrible violence that we would have-- no one in maybe like middle of Arkansas would have witnessed that it's available via social media. So I think that is also another factor just to go back to that earlier question.
GRACE MENG: I also think we have a really opportune moment right now. As more and more younger generation and newer generation of Asian-Americans are standing in solidarity with other communities like our brothers and sisters in the Black Lives Matter movement to address racism, not just racism that's directed towards our community, but racism that may exist within our own communities, within our own networks. When the Black Lives Matter protests were happening, I had a lot of difficult conversations, probably for the very first time, with our older generation of Asian-Americans in our community.
They obviously, in many cases, did not go to school here. They didn't learn about the history of black Americans in this country. But at the same time, and also working on legislation, people like me who have literally gone to school here, we haven't gotten a full and complete accounting of what American history means.
I didn't learn-- I barely learned about Chinese people building the railroad, Japanese-Americans being locked up in incarceration camps, slaves building the Capitol, the very place where I work. We didn't learn enough about what complete American history looks like. So we really have an opportunity here to address a lot of this racism and work harder to show each other's communities that we are mutually supportive of each other's issues.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, absolutely. And I do see what you mean about the younger generations leading that that way because there is more so in the Asian community, because of language and because of the way the family structure is set up, there's a big digital divide. As you said earlier, Congresswoman Meng, there hasn't been any legislative help for just even protecting yourself from the virus and getting that message out to those people who do not speak English, who cannot access a computer, even when the libraries were closed and everything.
So if you didn't have a computer at home, you were just isolated. You talked about resources earlier and the need for resources to help get the word out. Our friends on the panel and non-profit, like Yasmeen and Womankind, what's going on in non-profit now? I know there's all these baskets.
And every time there's a big movement the funds go into a basket and help everyone that's within that same vain. Are you are you finding that there's funding out to continue the programs you do to help survivors that may have been victimized in our community? I mean, there's always a need for more resources. But where are we now with this year with giving?
YASMEEN HAMZA: I think a lot of non-profits do get their funding from government. And with the impact of COVID, the economic impact, it's been very difficult for nonprofits to know if the funding will come through to be able to continue the support. And I think now more than ever the impact on communities, job loss, food insecurity, just being able to support individuals with basic needs and for us working with survivors of gender based violence, there is an increase in violence.
There's an increase in need and services. And so we're anticipating a rise in individuals coming to access support and services. And so I think now, more than ever, if there's ways, but not just government, but individuals can continue to support non-profits who are in the trenches and whose staff are also essential workers, and since the start of COVID, have been working to support individuals and families, it's a real important time that I think we all come together to be able to support nonprofits, to be able to continue that work because we know COVID is not going to just be a short-term impact on survivors. It's going to have a long term economic impact on survivors.
And we still have a ways to go to be able to get people in the resources that they need. And a lot of us were already under-resourced to begin with. And so this really just exacerbated that.
And so just the continued need of support from community and from individuals, from corporations, from government to be able to continue the work that we do day in and day out.
JOO HAN: Yeah, and I would just-- I agree with Yasmeen of we've had funding cuts in the Asian community. We are already so underfunded to begin with. We get 1.4% of New York city social contract dollars. And yet, we're the fastest growing.
We have some of the poorest people. It's been tough. And I think right now, we need resources to also be able to roll out and pilot these safety community, safety measures that we've been talking about that we've been starting to do some of that with obviously with the Center for Anti-Violence Education around some of the videos and booklets that we've made. But there has to be a sustained effort that the city has to invest.
California just threw in a big chunk of money to support the reporting and programmatic safety measures. And so I think all eyes are on New York to as to what's going to come next. And for instance, [INAUDIBLE] was part of an anti-racist coalition that got their funding completely gutted during this fiscal year and during a time when that funding was especially needed when there's so much demand for trainings and things like that. That hasn't been there.
So they're doing this-- we're doing more with less. And if we want to do a safety investment, if we want immediate street safety, we want to have folks out there. We need to have that sustained effort. There has to be money committed. It can't be just volunteer, which is amazing because the people are [INAUDIBLE]. But that's not a long term solution. So there has to be money from the city.
But also to Yasmeen's point, corporations are making a lot of statements that they're antiracist. This was all during the summer. But let's put your money where your mouth is.
You know that your Asian employees, your potentially black employees, there's a lot of microaggression biases happening, make a commitment within your own company to figure out how to address that. But also make that commitment to nonprofits like the Federation, like [INAUDIBLE] doing this work to address the violence that's happening so that we don't have to keep having these panels and having these town halls. I hope we can actually do the work to provide that safety right away.
GRACE MENG: If I can add something, our government, at all levels of government, city, state, federal, need to be more accountable in how they're responding to the Asian-American community. Why is it during a pandemic, which is essentially a war for us, that we have to tell all levels of government to provide translated resources so that the essential workers who might not be able to see important information online or who might not know English, we're having to remind them that people need translated help and having to depend on these very organizations, like the ones today, while government is cutting their funding.
And I will say, Joo, you mentioned the corporations. Not all of them have spoken up. I actually tweeted this morning because this is what I was thinking about in the middle of the night. Not everyone has spoken up.
Take a look at the number of Asian employees that work for you, whether you're in tech, corporate, academic, even nonprofits. I hope they're speaking up at the very least. And then after you speak up, we want to know what you're doing to help our community, diversity initiatives. Are you providing funding for organizations like the ones here who are actually reaching out to the community and family members of your very own employees? We need to see more from them, too.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's where the people on this call and the people watching can get involved. If you do frequent a business, if you do ride Uber, if you do go to Starbucks, feel free. As Rej mentioned, it's the pressure of social media that often gets the most response.
So if you're using and patronizing a business, ask them how do you support communities of color with a corporate community kind of sponsorship way? What are you doing to-- If there was violence in your neighborhood, what are you doing to support those organizations? Congresswoman Meng, Joo Han brought up some interesting point about California. Are you finding the support here on the New York City and state level that you need? I know that you were very encouraged about the people that showed up for the rally, Mayor de Blasio and Tish James. But big picture, do you feel like you're getting the support and resources and the attention on this, given it's New York City and given Asian-Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in our city?
GRACE MENG: I think all levels of government can and should be doing more from the federal administration, to the state of New York, to the city of New York. We appreciate showing up. We appreciate statements.
And again, not every one of them have even issued statements of support. But we really do need resources. And we were talking earlier about the hate crimes task force in New York City, which is something that can be very helpful. But we need it to be more effective. We need there to be more multilingual resources. And we need them to partner more with the local community organizations within our neighborhoods.
REJ JOO: Can I add, Nina, too, that I think it's amazing that all the parents so far have brought up the responsibility that corporate world could contribute as well as government. But I also want to encourage just people who are listening that aren't part of those, maybe you don't have a leadership role. And you're just a person walking down the street, or that it's critical for us as individuals to be able to learn how to intervene when we witness incidents of harassment and microaggressions.
Oftentimes, even this happens with people we know, right, our colleagues, our friends, our family, and maybe people on the street. We just let jokes go by. We just let passive aggressive comments go by.
But those are the ways that in which violence double and triple. And so if you're interested in learning how to intervene those incidents of violence or harassment, we do offer what we call upstander workshop. And I really encourage all of you to check out our website.
Actually we're doing a workshop tonight in 30 minutes. And it's free to community members, especially if you're based in New York City. So I want to encourage people who don't maybe have power, but just people just like you and I to step up.
NINA PINEDA: Definitely, and we have-- Rej, we have your workshop on ABC7 New York's community calendar that people can join in. And that brings us to a question actually directed for you, Rej, from Tiffany in West Orange. When I was confronted by someone who made a xenophobic comment, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to spend time trying to educate this person or ignore them. What would you do?
REJ JOO: Yeah, that is a really good question. And I would say first and foremost assess your level of safety for yourself. So scan your environment.
Are there people that maybe if something-- if between this person and yourself, things do escalate, are there people around that you can call for help? If not, and the place is dark, and this might be where you just, what we call, loose to win where you worry about your safety first and get to a place without being harmed.
However, if you notice, you know what, there are all these people around, and I want to intervene, I want to say something, I think there's different ways that we do offer in these trainings that are also considering your own safety. So we don't encourage people to just jump in front of an argument and save the situation or save the day. That's not what we're talking about.
We're talking about very strategic, safer strategies to be able to intervene in those moments and also for your own safety, doing an environmental scan. And all of those things, we go into detail in our workshops. So hopefully people will show up or check us out.
NINA PINEDA: Definitely, and again, the Center for Anti Violence Education, they're a community workshop. It's coming up after we wrap up here. We have that information on ABC7NY.com. And I thought it was significant that you said sometimes you have to lose to win. I mean, there's a lot of language now around taking initiative and not being a bystander and being an upstander.
But there are, as we have sadly witnessed across our city, ramifications for that that could have consequences of violence and can possibly be deadly. So you have to tread that fine line, like you said, look all around your environment. And I found your videos from Center for Anti-Violence Education very helpful. Because like I said, at the beginning of our town hall, sadly Asian-Americans that have been reticent to leave their homes because they fear violence, workshops like Rej's teach you how to stand, how to hold your hands, how to be prepared to be struck from behind or from the front, or how to deal with an escalating situation of where there's racial tension, how to de-escalate that.
And that's why I think it was so important the visual of the rally this weekend that AAF put together that was attended by so many people on this call, including the Congresswoman, that you're putting faces behind this movement. And it brings me to a question from Stephanie from Queens. And you can take this, Congresswoman, or you can, Joo Han.
What security measures are being done to protect civilians in Flushing Chinatown and K-Town now? Because those are obviously where everyone loves to go and eat and hang out and experience the culture, but sadly where these attacks are also occurring. So are there safety measures, tangible ones, in place now that you feel comfortable with? Or are we calling for more?
JOO HAN: So go ahead, Congresswoman.
GRACE MENG: Go ahead.
JOO HAN: I was just going to say I think we've had community members reach out to us and ask for those safety measures. And so that's I think-- there are volunteer, I think, efforts to address some of that. Maybe it's some of the patrolling, some of the escorting. But again, not at a wide level or a super coordinated because again, everyone's volunteering.
So that's why the investment is really needed. So I want to also give Congresswoman a chance to answer. But I'd also add before we close out, I want to also talk about the mental health impact that I think Yasmeen talked a little bit about in the beginning because that's been something that we've been hearing a lot about and not enough is also being done there.
GRACE MENG: Yeah, and I think part of this long term solution to providing more security or support in neighborhoods is making it easier for people to report. It's already very difficult for us to encourage people who may have been victims to report incidents, especially if it was only verbal. They might not feel like-- they might be embarrassed.
They might not want to report it. But I've talked to Mayor de Blasio and his team, asking for us to perhaps explore more creative ways to make it easier for people to report. I've heard a few incidents that have happened to people I know. One person said I don't know English.
I'm not comfortable going to the police department. And someone else said I had to go to work. There's no way that I would take off work to go report.
So in other jurisdictions, for example, more so because of COVID, but they've made it easier for people to report incidents online or through an app or on a phone. And so I just think that New York can think of more creative and easier ways for us to track down this information.
NINA PINEDA: Yeah, the work here is cut out for us. I know Womankind has the hotline to deport to report domestic violence issues. And they were ahead of the NYPD's 911 system of enabling texts. Because often with the pandemic, you're with your abuser in the same room. And you can't speak about it. You have to text.
So it's encouraging, Congresswoman Meng, that you had I think 157 co-sponsors and 500 organizations that supported your legislation. And I think the message here is that if you denounce bigotry and you denounce hatred, and you have an elected official that is not supporting just the recognition that as a society, as a country, and as a city that we have to address, there is a rise of anti-Asian events. Whether you're going to call them hate crimes, there's a lot of language about bias crimes. But you have to speak out.
We cannot be stereotypical as a race and just meekly stand by. We have to go out and support other ethnic groups. We have to speak out when we see violence. And we have to be, as Rej put it, up-standers.
So I wanted to take this time to thank our distinguished panel for giving us this hour of your time, to educate the public about what we are facing as a as a city and a nation, again, as you mentioned before, since the pandemic 3,000 cases of crimes against Asians. And given what we've all said on this town hall on Stop The Hate, I think that we can all do better given the groups of people represented here on our own social town hall. We will and we can do better to stop the hate.
I'm Nina Pineda. Thank you, again, for joining us. Please stay tuned for CeFaan Kim. He will have a report tonight at 11:00 on some breaking news that he has been able to speak to the NYPD former Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce about how we classify hate crime.
And there's a thought that everything when you don't know if it was a bias crime should be called a hate crime. A big language and a big discussion coming forward for all of us. But for all of us here at Eyewitness News, thank you for joining our social town hall. Good night and be safe.