In the News: AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ Report on Anti-Asian Violence Receives Widespread Press Attention

On February 11, AABANY held a press conference to discuss the release of its report co-authored with Paul, Weiss, A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions. Since the report’s release, news media across the country and around the world have summarized and cited its findings. 

Here are some news stories that discuss the report:

“Study Shows Rise of Hate Crimes, Violence Against Asian Americans During the Pandemic” By Zijia Eleanor Song and Jennifer Vázquez, February 11, 2021, NBC New York, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/study-shows-rise-of-hate-crimes-violence-against-asian-americans-in-nyc-during-covid/2883215/

“지난해 뉴욕 아시안 대상 혐오·폭력 사건 급증” By Shim Jongmin, February 12, 2021, The Korea Daily, http://www.koreadaily.com/news/read.asp?art_id=9086440 

“Greater Asian-American representation in leadership ranks needed to stem hate crimes in the US, says report” By Mark Magnier and Owen Churchill, February 12, 2021, South China Morning Post, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3121518/greater-asian-american-representation-leadership-ranks-needed-stem-hate

“歧視亞裔 紐約市全美第2多 亞裔律師協會籲政府採取行動” By 顏潔恩, February 13, 2021, World Journal, https://www.worldjournal.com/wj/story/121381/5249694

“【武漢肺炎】紐約巿針對亞裔仇恨罪案大增7倍 分析指受害人不願報案問題被低估” February 13, 2021, Apple Daily, https://tw.appledaily.com/international/20210213/SRL5UCFZUZBJXAEQOKN42SY6I4/

“Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Anti-Asian Violence Spikes Across the U.S.” February 15, 2021, NPR The Takeaway, https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/amid-covid-19-pandemic-anti-asian-violence-spikes-across-us 

“NY Bar Group Tackles Pandemic-Fueled Anti-Asian Crimes” By Marco Poggio, February 16, 2021, Law360, https://www.law360.com/pulse/articles/1354591 (subscription required)

Here are some news stories about recent incidents of anti-Asian violence, where they mention AABANY’s report:

“Anti-Asian Hate Crime Surge Fuels Demands for Systemic and Sensitive Responses” By Christine Chung, February 11, 2021, The City, https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/2/11/22279407/anti-asian-hate-crime-surge-fuels-demands-for-systemic-and-sensitive-responses 

“Remember, Racism Isn’t Just Black And White. Anti Asian Racism Is On the Rise in the Pandemic Era” By Eric Hinton, February 11, 2021, NBC 5 Dallas Fort-Worth, https://www.nbcdfw.com/lx/remember-racism-isnt-just-black-and-white-anti-asian-racism-is-on-the-rise-in-the-pandemic-era/2549631/ 

“VP Harris responds to surge in violent attacks against Asian Americans” By Hannah Miao, February 12, 2021, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/12/vp-harris-responds-to-surge-in-violent-attacks-against-asian-americans.html 

“38 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian Communities” By The Editors, February 12, 2021, New York Magazine (The Strategist), https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-to-help-asian-communities-2021.html 

“大门涂粪诅咒!华人幼儿园遭种族仇恨攻击!暴力升级,全美亚裔吁政府采取行动!” By 新西兰中文先驱网, February 15, 2021, Chinese Herald, https://www.chineseherald.co.nz/news/education/racial-hate/ 

“Hundreds of volunteers are escorting elderly Asian Americans to keep them safe” By Austa Somvichian-Clausen, February 16, 2021, The Hill Changing America, https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/equality/539083-attacks-on-elderly-asian-americans-cause-advocates-to-stand

The report has also made the news on WNYC-FM and MSNBC. If you have come across a news report or article about our report that is not listed above, please let us know at main@aabany.org.

More public awareness about our report and the rise in anti-Asian violence is needed. Please share our report widely. If you have ideas or thoughts about how we can combat anti-Asian violence, please share them with us at main@aabany.org.

AABANY Releases Report on Anti-Asian Hate Amid COVID-19

An eight-fold increase in reported hate crimes against Asians, racist rhetoric such as “the Chinese virus,” and insufficient media coverage of anti-Asian violence — these were among the timely issues discussed at a press conference hosted by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) on February 11. The press conference centered around AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ co-authored report: A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions. Speakers of note included:

  • Chris Kwok, Board Director, Issues Committee Chair
  • Karen King, Vice Chair, Pro Bono & Community Service Committee; Counsel, Paul, Weiss
  • U.S. Rep., Grace Meng (D-NY)
  • Prof. Russell Jeung, Stop AAPI Hate
  • President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY
AABANY President Sapna Palla and Executive Director Yang Chen were joined by executive editors of the report Chris Kwok and Karen King, professors Russell Jeung and Frank Wu, and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The report’s primary finding is that anti-Asian hate and violence surged in 2020. Between March and September of that year, the number of reported anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 exceeded 2,500. 

At the press conference, Rep. Meng kickstarted the discussion of this grim reality by situating it against a backdrop of long-standing intolerance toward the AAPI community, which motivated the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Meng condemned some of the nation’s top government officials and social institutions for fanning the flames of this deep-rooted racism. As noted in the report, the xenophobic rhetoric of elected officials, paired with misinformation spread by the media, normalizes and fuels disease-based stigma against Asians. The subsequent uptick in violence against Asian communities motivated Meng to propose and help pass House Resolution 908 in 2020 denouncing all forms of anti-Asian sentiment. While Meng described the bill as largely symbolic, it has since been incorporated into President Biden’s presidential memorandum, which includes concrete measures to disseminate COVID-19 resources in different languages and improve the collection of data on hate crimes. Meng’s fight to amplify voices within the AAPI community thus lights the path forward. “We’ve taken a positive step — an initial step — but we must continue to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Asian sentiment rises,” said Meng. 

A similar desire to spotlight the plight of AAPIs motivated Chris Kwok to serve as an executive editor for the report on anti-Asian violence. Since the onset of the pandemic, Kwok noted at the conference, there has not been a single prosecution or civil resolution for any incident of anti-Asian bias. A key purpose of the report is thus to show that Asian invisibility in the political and legal space has real-life consequences. Moving forward, Kwok hopes to inspire a constructive dialogue among Asians and other Americans alike. To that end, the report highlights seven initiatives that will help policyholders at all levels keep communities safe and hold perpetrators of violence accountable. These initiatives range from broad prescriptions, such as public education campaigns and collaboration among minority groups, to specific remedies, such as clear reporting mechanisms for victims and the more consistent prosecution of hate crimes. 

Professor Russell Jeung continued the discussion of possible solutions to anti-Asian hate incidents while echoing his concern about the divisive effects of COVID-19. Drawing from data he helped collect for Stop AAPI Hate, Jeung said that among United States cities, New York City reported the second-highest number of hate incidents in the past year. Assessing the range of anti-Asian hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate, the report notes a concerning number of incidents involving verbal harassment, physical assault, and being coughed and spat on. Worse still, the youth and the elderly are the most common victims of racist attacks and consequent racial trauma. Among its federal recommendations to address this issue, Stop AAPI Hate proposes to expand civil rights protections for AAPIs experiencing discrimination, end the racial profiling of Chinese researchers, and mobilize a federal interagency response to anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic. As Jeung is quick to emphasize, this fight for the civil rights of Asian Americans is a fight to expand protections for all Americans. “Please stand up, speak out, build bridges, and together we can make good on the promise of a diverse democracy,” said Jeung.

In promoting the proposals of Stop AAPI Hate and the report, for which he wrote the foreword, Queens College President Frank Wu highlighted the importance of building multi-racial coalitions. Wu identified Black, Latinx, and other underrepresented communities as allies to the AAPI community. As emphasized in the report, stronger collaboration among such minority groups is especially critical in communities like New York City, whose diversity heightens the danger that hate incidents exacerbate racial politics. “It would be a mistake of principle and pragmatism to point the finger at another group and suggest that others are guilty by association,” said Wu. Instead, we must look to universal values and American ideals as forces for national unity. As Wu writes in the foreword to the report, “To be Asian American is to be American, to express confidence enough in an experiment of self-governance to participate wholeheartedly.”

President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY, wrote the foreword of the report.

Rep. Meng concluded the press conference by calling on all Americans, especially those raised in the United States, to identify and combat racism when it occurs within their own circles. Meng stated that too often, stories of victims from the AAPI community are left out of mainstream media and the public consciousness. Along with implementing the aforementioned policy recommendations, therefore, Meng emphasized the need for racial solidarity. Only then can Americans progress toward the shared goal of dismantling systemic racism in this country and advancing justice for all. 

ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF REPORT ON RISE OF ANTI-ASIAN VIOLENCE IN NEW YORK DURING COVID-19

NEW YORK – February 10, 2021 – The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) is proud to announce the release of its report co-authored with Paul, Weiss, ​A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions​. Executive editors of the report were Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director and Issues Committee Chair, and Karen King, Vice Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and Counsel at Paul, Weiss. The report is dedicated to Corky Lee, who passed away on January 27, 2021 due to COVID-19. Corky was a revered photographer in the Asian American community who had been documenting the effort to combat anti-Asian violence and harassment in the wake of COVID-19. Read more here.

To read A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, click here.

General Counsel Roundtable at the 2020 Fall Conference: Promoting Unity and Strength Through Leadership

On Friday, September 25, AABANY kicked off the 2020 Fall Conference, held virtually this year due to COVID-19. The conference theme was “Stronger Together: Unity in Diversity” and commenced with the General Counsel Roundtable program, entitled “Promoting Unity and Strength Through Leadership.” The panelists included: 

Moderator: 

  • Michael Wu, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Madewell, Inc.

Speakers: 

  • Vanessa Allen Sutherland, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation
  • Deborah P. Majoras, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary, The Procter & Gamble Company
  • Rena Reiss, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Marriott International, Inc.
  • Ann Munson Steines, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Nordstrom, Inc.
  • Amy Weaver, President and Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce.com, Inc.
  • David Zapolsky, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Amazon.com, Inc.

The program followed a Q&A format and explored a wide range of topics, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian violence. Michael Wu started by asking the panelists how the pandemic has impacted their company operations and their outlook as organization leaders. One major takeaway was that legal departments are shifting into more generalist than specialist roles in order to adapt to crisis operations under a “rescue, recover, and reimagine” mandate. All panelists agreed that while companies and communities are currently in the recovery stage, a re-imagined world will look different from before and rely heavily on virtual and digital channels. Amy Weaver succinctly summarized that “two things are the most relevant today” to companies navigating these complex times: first, be a quick study; second, be able to make decisions quickly. 

The panelists were then asked what challenges in diversity and inclusion their companies are facing and how are they being addressed? Rena Reiss emphasized the need to carve out time and space to discuss racial issues that weren’t previously seen as polite workplace conversation. Vanessa Sutherland and Amy Weaver highlighted the snail’s pace at which financial industries and law firms operate with regard to diversity initiatives and stressed the need for immediate change. 

Michael Wu also asked about challenges Asian Americans face in corporate America, whether or not they are seen as minorities, and what advancement initiatives are in place. Panelists acknowledged the racial xenophobia and anti-Asian violence COVID-19 has wrought, and Ann Steines spoke to Black Lives Matter as an opportunity for allyship to advance the meaningful engagement of all diverse individuals in the workplace. 

At the conclusion of the program, Michael asked the panelists to give advice to diverse lawyers seeking career advancement. In response, Vanessa acknowledged the tendency of diverse attorneys to be risk-averse due to the disproportionate pressure placed on them. She encouraged lawyers of color to not be afraid to take risks, because leaders need to demonstrate that they are capable of making uncomfortable decisions.  

Ann recommended that minority lawyers consciously diversify expertise as their career progresses. “As lawyers we’re told to be experts in the areas we practice in. Then you get to a point in your career where you need to expand your horizons,” she stated. “People don’t always put their arm around the diverse candidate to tell them the advice that all the panelists have been giving today.” Ann thus highlighted the lack of formal and informal mentorship that places diverse attorneys at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts. 

As the panel drew to a close, Michael asked the GCs to share with up-and-coming lawyers the most valuable advice they have received in their career. David Zapolsky offered the following three-part answer: First, to be business people first and lawyers second. Second, “being a lawyer is about preserving your personal credibility even if you have clients who can’t.” Finally, “if you touch it you own it.” 

The GC Roundtable is typically the highlight of the Fall Conference, and this year’s kept in line with prior GC Roundtables, offering impactful and pertinent viewpoints and guidance for all attendees. With this all-star panel the GC Roundtable kicked off another successful Fall Conference and set a high bar for the programs that followed on Saturday.

Thank you to all the panelists and our moderator, Michael Wu, for their invaluable insights on topical matters that are top-of-mind for in-house counsel and attorneys working in today’s challenging environment. To view a recording of the GC Roundtable, click here or click the image above.

Fall Conference 2020: Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic

On September 26, 2020, as part of the second day of the 2020 Fall Conference, AABANY hosted a program discussing Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic, which focused on trends and newly compiled statistics related to this discrimination. The panel included:

  • Karen King, Counsel at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (Moderator)
  • Joe Gim, Deputy Chief of the County Court Trial Bureau in Nassau County
  • Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and Member of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council
  • Stewart Loo, Deputy Inspector of the NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force
  • John C. Yang, President and Executive Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director at the Asian American Federation

First, Professor Jeung introduced “Stop AAPI Hate,” an online reporting center organized by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. Since March 19, 2020, the reporting center has been tracking and responding to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in California and where possible throughout the United States. In California, there have been over 300,000 reported incidents over the eight month period. There was a major uptick in March when President Trump started calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and in late June when Trump started using the term “Kung Flu.” Although most of the reported incidents have been verbal, there have been an alarming number of incidents where Asian Pacific Americans (APA) were coughed or spat on.

Jo-Ann Yoo then discussed the situation in New York and emphasized that reporting is only as good as its outreach. Joe Gim specified that legally, a hate crime in New York must both involve a person selected to have a crime against them because of their identity and have that factor be a substantial part of the crime.

Next, Stewart Loo introduced the NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force, which gets involved with incidents of hate and discrimination when they become crimes. The task force assists victims who cannot speak English but want to report an incident. Due to cultural differences and the length and complexity of reporting a crime to the NYPD, the criminal process can be very daunting. Yoo added that many people are shy or afraid to report, regardless of a language barrier, especially to the media. John Yang then discussed the importance of media pieces in humanizing the statistics and building community strength.

Professor Jeung and John Yang also discussed how APA social status has historically been very conditional. As many APA individuals still toggle between being part of a Model Minority or a Yellow Peril, they are seen as perpetual foreigners, which adds to the rising anti-Asian hate.

The panel concluded with talking about the rise in APA youth supporting Black Lives Matter. In order to be heard on a nationwide scale, everyday citizens must fight for the respect that their communities do not already receive, whether by serving as a poll worker, speaking up in organizations, or simply voting. The panel ended with discussing how APA culture is stereotypically seen as quiet, but in order to see change now, people need to speak up and speak out.

Thank you to the panelists, Joe Gim, Russell Jeung, Stewart Loo, John C. Yang, and Jo-Ann Yoo, and moderator Karen King for leading such an inspiring and important discussion on anti-Asian violence and hate during the pandemic. And thank you to the AABANY Pro Bono and Community Service, and Government Service and Public Interest Committees for hosting the event.

Click here to access the Stop AAPI Hate website.
Click here to access AAF’s COVID-19 Safety Resources.

To view a recording of this program, please click on the video image at the top of this blog post.

AABANY Comments on Formation of NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) welcomed NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison’s announcement on August 18 of the formation of an Asian Hate Crimes Task Force in the wake of a string of recent anti-Asian attacks and harassment. Incidents include an 89-year-old woman who was set on fire on July 17 and a woman who was the victim of anti-Asian verbal assault. Overall, there have been more than 2,300 separate racist incidents reported throughout the United States with 317 reported in New York alone.

The task force is reported to comprise 25 officers of Asian descent selected from throughout New York. The officers will be proficient in Mandarin, Cantonese, Fuzhounese, Korean, and Japanese. The task force will also rely on a team of certified translators if needed. Reports of potential hate crimes will be handled by officers of similar cultural and language background.

In conjunction with announcing the formation of the Asian Hate Crimes Task Force, The World Journal and WNBC among others have provided links to AABANY’s Anti-Asian Harassment and Violence guide and other resources to help victims report hate crimes to the prior authorities. With regard to AABANY’s efforts to combat anti-Asian violence, Executive Director Yang Chen was quoted by NBC on AABANY’s commitment “to seek justice, and to educate the broader community about eradicating racism and xenophobia in our society.” 

AABANY welcomes the formation of the NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force and will continue to fight against anti-Asian violence and racial prejudice in all its forms. Click here to read more regarding AABANY’s COVID-19 Anti-Asian Harassment and Violence guide in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Allen & Overy Honors the Legacy of Vincent Chin through a Virtual Trial Reenactment

Vincent Chin is a name painfully familiar to some and unrecognizable to others. It is the beginning of so many stories, including mine. Three years ago, I met Annie Tan (no relation to me, though we happen to share the same name), an Asian American activist, teacher, and niece of Vincent Chin. She was the keynote speaker at Crossroads, a conference for young Asian American activists organized by Columbia students. I was a confused 16-year-old attending my first conference dedicated to activism. 

At the time, I had just begun exploring my Asian American identity and history. Through self-education and discussions with other students, I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the model minority myth. But, despite my interest in activism, I did not believe that I could seriously pursue or be successful in creating change for the Asian American community. Who would listen to a young, Asian American girl, not even old enough to vote, talk about race, especially when these conversations are often so complex and black and white?

However, as Annie Tan stood behind the podium and began recounting her own journey in activism–how she found a supportive community through Columbia’s Asian American Alliance, and how the legacy of her uncle, Vincent Chin, affected her work–I realized that someone like me, someone who looked like me and even had the same name as me, could be an activist. Because of Asian American women like Lily Chin and Helen Zia, Vincent Chin’s death became not just a moment, but a movement for Asian Americans. And, it is because of people like Annie Tan, and maybe even people like me, that the story of Vincent Chin, and the story of Asian America, continues to be told and heard.

This year, on May 28, during APA Heritage Month, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) co-sponsored a virtual trial re-enactment of the Vincent Chin case with Allen & Overy–the first time a reenactment has been performed virtually via WebEx due to the restrictions of COVID-19. I attended this event, hoping to learn more about the man whose life inspired so many, including myself, to speak out against hatred, violence, and inequity.

Vincent Chin was beaten to death in 1982 in Detroit days before his wedding by two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who were laid-off automobile workers. The fatal assault was preceded by an argument between Chin and Ebens, who hurled racial insults at Chin, reportedly calling him a “Nip.” At the time, Asian Americans were the face of the enemy: the robust Japanese automobile industry was putting many automobile workers in Detroit, like Ebens and Nitz, out of work. 

Despite the violent acts that Chin’s murderers committed, they were imposed only a fine for their crimes. When the case reached the Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Kaufman, finding Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter, only sentenced them to three years probation and a fine of approximately $3,000. They received no jail time, and no prosecutor appeared during the trial, nor was Chin’s family notified of the trial. 

Frustrated with this outcome, Helen Zia and Lily Chin, supported by the newly-founded Asian American civil rights organization American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), urged the U.S. Department of Justice to bring federal criminal charges against the murderers and investigate the case as a civil rights violation. The case was brought to Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, one of the first African American women to serve on the Federal bench, and in 1984, the U.S. District Court found Ebens guilty of violating the civil rights of Chin and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. However, Ebens’ lawyers appealed, claiming that the trial judge did not allow the defense to present evidence that suggested the prosecution tampered with the witness testimony. This led to a retrial in the federal court in Cincinnati on May 1, 1987, which found that Ebens was not guilty of violating Chin’s civil rights and that his actions were not motivated by Chin’s race. The same year, Ebens and Nitz settled a civil suit out of court, where Nitz was ordered to pay $50,000 and Ebens was ordered to pay $1.5 million to the Chin estate. To this day, Ebens has not served any jail time and has yet to pay the now $8 million (with accumulated interest) he owes to the Chin family.

The Vincent Chin case highlighted the flaws in our criminal justice system and served as a catalyst for Asian American civil rights engagement. Following the trials, federal and state laws were enacted to give victims of hate crimes greater rights. The case also led to reforms in sentencing and plea bargaining, including the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Most importantly, Chin’s murder awakened the civil rights consciousness of Asian Americans in a time when the subject of race was still Black and White. Asian Americans were galvanized by the notion that they, just like Vincent Chin, could be beaten to death because of their race without the perpetrators suffering any consequences. People across ethnic and socioeconomic lines joined together to seek justice for Chin, creating organizations such as American Citizens for Justice, now known as the Asian American Center for Justice, focused on civil rights work.

A panel discussion followed the trial re-enactment, featuring: Christine Choy, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” and professor at NYU Tisch School of Arts; Emil Guillermo, print and broadcast journalist, and contributor to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s blog; and Jia Lynn Yang, Deputy National Editor at The New York Times and author of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide, which examines the history of immigration in the United States. The discussion was moderated by John Hwang, Partner, and Jiawei Chin, Associate, at Allen & Overy. 

Christine Choy reflected on the evolution of activism and the Asian American identity, referencing major events such as the end of the Vietnam War, and the rise of the Black Panther Party and other young student movements. She cited the Red Guard Party in Chinatown as an early example of Asian American activism and stressed that Vincent Chin’s murder was responsible for asserting Asian Americans’ role in civil rights.

Emil Guillermo emphasized that though the crime of Vincent Chin awoke people in Detroit, he, himself, did not know as much as he should have about the case. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Chin’s death, most people still do not understand the full picture of what happened during Chin’s case. Guillermo also highlighted the similarities between Vincent Chin’s death and that of George Floyd, urging the Asian American community to recognize their shared experiences with Black communities.

Finally, Jia Lynn Yang noted how quickly the Asian American population has grown, rising from 3.5 million in 1980 to now over 20 million. Despite their growing presence, Asian Americans are still viewed as foreigners who will never belong in the United States, just as Vincent Chin was. In fact, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed many Asian Americans to immigrate to this country, was not consciously written to welcome non-Europeans. Now, however, almost two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign-born, and the xenophobic attacks Chin faced have transformed into anti-Asian violence and harassment from racially-charged fears over COVID-19.

Many of us are tied to Vincent Chin, often in ways we may not even realize. He is the reason why many individuals, like myself, are inspired and emboldened to engage in Asian American activism. Vincent Chin is not just a memory they think of once a year, on the anniversary of his death. As I listened to Annie Tan describe her family’s pain, and how brave and lonely Lily Chin–her great aunt–was as she fought for her son’s justice, I understood that Vincent’s murder is a wound that continues to haunt families, friends, and communities connected to him, and a legacy that is still alive in Asian Americans today.

It is easy for us to forget their names: Vincent Chin, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain. But we must recognize that these individuals are not simply statistics or hashtags. Their lives–cut short by racism, bigotry, and the failures of our criminal justice system–mattered. Their lives have the power to inspire people to take action against hate and to spark movements, but this is only possible if we continue to learn about and honor these individuals, whose stories have been lost and overlooked. Only then, by acknowledging those before us, can we strive to create real change and avoid repeating the past.

We thank Allen & Overy and all of the participants in the reenactment for giving their time to raise awareness of Vincent Chin’s legacy. To learn more about the Vincent Chin trial reenactment and to request the script, go here. For more information about AABANY’s trial reenactments project, visit https://reenactments.aabany.org/.

Member Profile: Chris Kwok Reconstructs the Hidden Narratives of Asian America

In response to the anti-Asian violence and harassment exacerbated by COVID-19, Chris Kwok has created important spaces for the APIA community to address and heal from these discriminatory acts. As Chair of the Issues Committee of AABANY, Chris has organized numerous panels and discussions to educate individuals about the history of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia relating to public health crises, and has co-authored an op-ed for the New York Daily News on the topic.

Born in China, Chris moved to the United States in 1979, where his family was among the first wave of Asian immigrants to settle in Flushing. He had always been interested in history and was able to focus on Chinese and Asian American history as an undergraduate at Cornell. He then went on to UCLA Law School to continue his developing interest in civil rights and critical race theory. Chris served as a mediator for the New York District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Chris also served on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and was the founding chair of the Asian American Pacific Islander Network. Currently, he is a mediator of labor and employment disputes at JAMS.

The idea that Asian Americans are carriers of disease is not new–it is deeply rooted in Western and American thought. Chris cites the bubonic plague outbreak in San Francisco in the early 1900s as an example of APIA communities being subjected to similar hatred and discrimination we see today. In order to better understand and combat the anti-Asian violence and rhetoric from COVID-19, and also to become better citizens and community members, Asian Americans must be aware of their own history in this country. Unfortunately, Asian American history is not mainstream: this education is not taught but must be self-directed. Through his programs and discussions, Chris hopes to share this under-acknowledged history and “reconstruct the narratives that are hidden in plain sight for most Asian Americans.” 

Over the past two months, Chris has organized and been featured in many events addressing anti-Asian violence and harassment. On April 3, he led a panel discussion through the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) that aimed to educate Asian American lawyers on the history of using public health concerns to justify anti-Asian sentiments. On April 20, Chris participated in a virtual town hall with Alvin Bragg, former Chief Deputy at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where he spoke to a larger audience about multi-racial coalition building to combat all types of hate crimes. Chris also spoke on a panel for the Asian American Arts Alliance on May 19, where he discussed the rise in COVID-19 hate crimes and how Asian American artists have the power to retell the lost narratives of the APIA community in American history. On May 28, Chris gave the introductory remarks for a panel responding to a virtual trial reenactment of the Vincent Chin case, where he highlighted the relevance of Vincent Chin’s murder in the current environment of anti-Asian harassment and violence. Finally, Chris served as a panelist for the Thomson Reuters Asian Affinity Network on May 28, where he spoke to a corporate audience about the need to build consciousness and address these anti-Asian sentiments in a setting where conversations about diversity and inclusion are generally more constrained.

From the responses he has received from the discussions and panels, Chris has realized that Asian Americans yearn for a space to have these conversations about their histories and identities. The political and social culture that Asian Americans live in limits their opportunities to talk through experiences with discrimination, especially within a public sphere. Chris highlighted that many Asian Americans, given the current context of George Floyd’s murder and the greater Black Lives Matter protests, do not believe they should speak out about their own experiences of anti-Asian violence and harassment. There is no question that the Black community faces longer, systemic, and deadly forms of discrimination. But this does not mean that Asian Americans must be apologetic when talking about their own experiences with racism or stop having conversations addressing their own histories and identities. Rather, the APIA community can show solidarity with the Black community and recognize the experiences of African Americans, while also fighting against and raising awareness of anti-Asian sentiments. Both of these conversations can occur at the same time, as long as Asian Americans acknowledge the context and connection of their experiences to those of the Black community.

Finally, Chris stressed that the APIA community must never stop talking about their history and the prevalence of anti-Asian violence and harassment. Everyone has a different role to play in fighting discrimination and hatred against the APIA community: some may lead important conversations and movements, while others may financially contribute to community groups. Each individual must do “one more thing than what they’re doing already,” as their efforts may inspire others to do the same. When Asian Americans have discussions about their identities and histories, they raise greater consciousness of Asian American issues and contribute to ending these acts of anti-Asian violence and hatred.

We thank Chris Kwok for facilitating much-needed conversations within AABANY and the greater APIA community. Chris will be speaking on a panel for the 2020 Federal Bar Association Eastern District of New York Diversity Forum: The Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Communities on June 23, 2020. To register for this event, see https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1386519.  For more information on the Issues Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/154.