In the News: Board Director Chris Kwok Interviewed on The Debrief

On June 11, AABANY Board Director Chris Kwok was interviewed by Erica Byfield on News 4 The Debrief podcast for an episode titled “Anti-Asian Attacks and Relations With the Black Community.” In the episode, they talked about the ongoing hate and violence against Asian Americans across the United States and the longstanding history of society’s treatment of non-whites in America. Chris spoke about how fighting anti-Asian violence is connected to the Black Lives Matter and Me Too Movements because people are fighting for the same things—an equal, just society and an equal chance to be human. However, at the same time, people need to understand how race operates differently between Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans. Chris states, “Having these conversations in public, honestly, with people who know what they’re talking about, and who are sensitive to these topics, empathetic to people’s experiences, knowledgeable about our histories, about how they are intertwined, how they can be used against us, how we can then turn it around and use it for good. If we‘re able to sort of look at it square in the face is, I think, the way forward. There’s no other way.” In addition, Chris discussed the importance of following up with District Attorney’s Offices in New York City to ensure that hate crimes are addressed and perpetrators are held accountable. To listen to the full podcast, click here.

AABANY’s report on anti-Asian violence was also recently cited in a June 15 Indonesian article on alinea.id about the naming of viruses and diseases including Covid-19. The article discusses the increase of discrimination against Asian Americans in the U.S. after the widespread labeling of Covid-19 as the “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus” by former U.S. President Trump.

Please also take a look at previous blog posts from February 19, March 1, March 8, March 15, March 29, May 10, and May 17 highlighting news stories about our report. 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 Co-Sponsors a CLE Program about Anti-Asian Violence and Steps Lawyers Can Take to Combat the Issue on May 26

On May 26, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), along with the New York City Bar Association (NYCBA) and the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), hosted a CLE program about the rise in anti-Asian violence during the past year. Karen King, AABANY Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee Co-Chair welcomed the attendees. Bret Parker, the Executive Director of the New York City Bar Association introduced the program and gave his thanks to the organizers of the event as well. Karen Kithan Yau, AABANY Board Director and the moderator for the event, introduced the program’s panelists: PBCS Committee Co-Chair and Morvillo Abramowitz Partner Karen King; AABANY Board Director, Issues Committee Co-Chair, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair and JAMS Mediator Chris Kwok; Girls Rule the Law founder Mirna Santiago; Kings County DA Office Bureau Chief Kin Ng; and Legal Aid Society Cop Accountability Project attorney Jennvine Wong.

Karen King and Chris began the presentation for the event. Karen first discussed the origins of anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining that anti-Asian bias incidents began very early on in the pandemic. The number of incidents only tapered off due to the stay-at-home orders, before increasing once again after President Trump’s inflammatory statements blaming Asians for the outbreak. Chris also pointed out that the New York Police Department (NYPD) often neglected to fully investigate the earliest occurrences of anti-Asian hate, regarding them as minor incidents. He also presented a brief history of anti-Asian violence, beginning with the Chinese massacre of 1871 which immunized violence against Asians and ending with the Vincent Chin case. Karen then discussed the causes of the violence against Asians. She explained that societal stress, inaccurate information, underreporting, lack of cultural awareness of the discrimination that Asians face, and prosecution’s tendency to not pursue hate crime enhancements all contributed to the increase in anti-Asian incidents. Chris also noted that the NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force not only lacks funding, but that its members are already assigned to other departments in the NYPD and serve on the Task Force on a volunteer basis. The Black Lives Matter and the Defund the Police movements also eclipsed the issue of anti-Asian violence through the end of 2020. Karen explained that AABANY’s report on anti-Asian violence was written to document this issue and keep it in the public eye.

After the presentation, Karen Yau opened the conversation to the rest of the panelists. She began by addressing Mirna, asking her what it meant to be an ally. Mirna explained that the feeling of “otherness” is something that all minority groups face. She also emphasized the need to break away from tit-for-tat allyship and to build a trans-racial coalition united to fight against racism and hate.

Karen then turned to Kin and asked about the reasons why any hate crimes had yet to be successfully prosecuted. Kin explained that unlike other crimes, law enforcement must not only prove that the perpetrator committed the crime, but also must prove that the perpetrator was motivated by racist sentiments. This process is often lengthy and requires a great deal of investigation. Kin also pointed out that acquiring evidence of hate speech can be prevented by the victim’s inability to understand English. He acknowledged how frustrating the process was, but also encouraged the attendees to report any incidents, as establishing a pattern aids the prosecution of hate crimes.

Karen then followed up by asking how prosecutors dealt with the difficulties of investigating hate crimes. Kin explained that establishing trust between the District Attorney’s Office and people in the community is instrumental in acquiring evidence. He also pointed out that more funding and employing more bilingual individuals to act as a liaison between the DA’s Office and the community would aid prosecution immensely.

Karen then turned to the issue of over-incarceration. Addressing Jennvine, Karen asked her thoughts about combating anti-Asian incidents without turning to incarceration. Jennvine acknowledged the issue, emphasizing how hate crime enhancements disproportionately affect other minorities who are already overrepresented in the prison system. She also asserted that criminalization would obscure the root cause of the violence, white supremacy. Rather than buy into the media’s false narrative of blacks versus Asians, Jennvine explained that many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are subjected to violence because they are trapped in poverty and living in unsafe neighborhoods. Jennvine concluded by contending that turning to the NYPD would not offer a viable long-term solution.

Karen then returned to Kin, asking if the new discovery laws had any effect on the prosecution of hate crimes. Kin explained that the new laws would allow the alleged perpetrator’s defense attorney to call witnesses in their homes because the defense is entitled to interview witnesses. This change has resulted in some individuals being less willing to testify, making underreporting more severe.

Karen then moved the conversation to bail reform. She described one incident where, due to the pandemic, the alleged perpetrator of a bias incident was not put on trial and walked free without an order of protection for the alleged victim for several months before going to court. Jennvine responded by emphasizing the importance of bail reform and how previous bail laws only gave victims a false sense of security. She also pointed out that orders of protection are typically granted and also tend to only give protection in name. Kin also noted that the large gap between the report of the incident and the court date was due to the extraordinary circumstances caused by the pandemic. The absence of an order of protection was due to the lack of a court hearing until the later date.

Karen then addressed Chris, asking about his experiences in speaking with the media. Chris explained that when the report was published in February of 2021, mass media was not aware of the basic facts about anti-Asian violence. When the media coverage began to recede in March, the Atlanta shootings gave new gravity to the situation, though much of the nuance about the issue was lost in the popular narrative which pits blacks against Asians. Nonetheless, Chris also noted that the attention Asians have received in the media is unprecedented.

Karen then turned back to Mirna, asking to what degree the conflict between Asians and blacks is real. Mirna emphasized the need to educate others and to reconsider our own bias when being an ally. She also highlighted Grace Lee Boggs, an Asian woman who was extremely active in the fight for black civil rights in the 1960s. She closed by reiterating the need for listening and empathy across communities.

Karen then inquired about the importance of symbols, such as swastikas, in prosecuting hate crimes. Kin responded that since Asian cultures are extremely diverse, finding a single symbol that could be employed as a hate symbol against Asians would be difficult. Kin also reiterated that the police’s ability to prove a connection between race and the crime depends largely on the amount of effort the police are willing to put into the investigation.

Karen’s final question was about the possibility of a program where alleged perpetrators could receive counseling from victims. Karen King disagreed, questioning its practicality, but supported counseling perpetrators. Mirna concurred, stating that it should never be the burden of the victims to help their perpetrators. Chris also emphasized the importance of education and cultural competency in combating racism and building solidarity.

Kin and Chris then closed the panel discussion by reemphasizing the need for reporting incidents, as the issue of anti-Asian violence would remain invisible unless victims and witnesses stepped forward to bring the issue into the spotlight.

The President of the NYSBA, Scott Karson, concluded the event by thanking the organizers, panelists, and attendees for participating in the event, and reiterated NYSBA’s solidarity with the Asian community. Karen Yau also encouraged attendees to volunteer for AABANY’s Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART), an initiative which would allow volunteers to connect community members who had experienced a bias incident with legal and mental health resources.

To learn more about the HEART initiative click here. To view the full video of the program, click here.

FACT SHEET: President Biden Establishes the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

On May 28, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and delivering on the President’s commitment to reinstate and reinvigorate this historic Initiative.

The new Initiative is charged with driving an ambitious, whole-of-government agenda to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities by:

  • Helping to coordinate a comprehensive Federal response to the rise in acts of anti-Asian bias and violence
  • Addressing the systemic lack of disaggregated data on AA and NHPI communities in Federal statistical systems
  • Expanding language access and language assistance programs for AA and NHPI individuals across Federal programs
  • Strengthening economic security and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities by empowering AA and NHPI entrepreneurs, building new workforce training opportunities, and promoting workplaces that are free from harassment against AA and NHPI workers
  • Addressing the concentration of poverty experienced in many AA and NHPI communities
  • Addressing disparities in educational outcomes for AA and NHPI students of all ages, and addressing bullying, harassment, and discrimination in our Nation’s schools
  • Advancing climate and environmental justice for AA and NHPI communities who are particularly impacted by the climate crisis and are overburdened by environmental degradation
  • Promoting inclusion and belonging for all AA and NHPI communities by strengthening public awareness and education about AA and NHPI communities, cultures, and traditions
  • Empowering AA and NHPI communities to be civically engaged, including through electoral participation
  • Building a Federal workforce where AA and NHPI public servants are leaders at the most senior levels of our government
  • Ensuring that AA and NHPI communities are empowered and equitably served by Federal funding, grants, and contracts

To read The White House’s full fact sheet, click here.

NAPABA Congratulates Krystal Ka’ai, who was Appointed to Become Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

For Immediate Release:
Date: May 28, 2021

Contact: Edgar Chen, Policy Director

WASHINGTON – NAPABA congratulates Krystal Ka’ai, who today was appointed by President Biden to become Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. NAPABA has worked with Ms. Ka’ai for nearly a decade in her role as Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“Krystal has been a steadfast advocate for the AA and NHPI communities,” said NAPABA Executive Director Priya Purandare.  “Her experience working on nearly every important legislative and policy priority affecting the AA and NHPI populations makes her uniquely situated to lead the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders during the most critical times for these communities. NAPABA is proud to have supported her candidacy, and we look forward to working with her in her new role and strengthening our relationship with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.”

The White House today also announced that the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders will be housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, to ensure that the Federal government is mitigating COVID-19 related anti-Asian bias, advancing health equity for all AA and NHPI communities, and ensuring AA and NHPI communities can equitably recover from these crises.

Ms. Ka’ai’s prior experience includes working with late Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, a Legislative and Research Fellow in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Program Associate of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation.  A graduate of the Kamehameha Schools, Ms. Ka’ai will be the first native Hawaiian to serve in this position. For more on this announcement by the White House, click here.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) in the largest Asian Pacific American membership organization representing the interests of approximately 60,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

AAJANY Statement on Anti-Asian Violence

We are heartened by the expressions of solidarity against anti-Asian bigotry and violence from our brothers and sisters across the many bar and judicial associations. We too express our condolences to the families of all victims in Atlanta and to all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have experienced violence of any kind based on their ethnicity.  To quote the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”   

– Asian American Judges Association of New York State 

NAPABA Calls on Law Enforcement to Fully Investigate Georgia Shootings

For Immediate Release: Date: March 17, 2021

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON—Last night, a gunman entered multiple businesses in Atlanta and opened fire on their predominantly Asian American workforces. This horrifying act of violence left eight dead, including six Asian American women. There have now been nearly 3,800 documented attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic just over a year ago, with this incident, sadly, being the most brazen and violent.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)’s president A.B. Cruz III issued the following statement:

“NAPABA extends its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and coworkers of the eight victims. Last night’s murders are only the latest in a distressing trend that specifically targets and physically attacks Asian Americans—particularly the elderly and women. This is totally unacceptable.

While further details of this violent act are still forthcoming, it is clear, from this latest tragedy and the many before it, that the Asian American community has good reason to be acutely concerned. Therefore, we specifically call on federal and local state law enforcement to aggressively investigate and prosecute these unconscionable killings to the fullest extent, including unearthing and evaluating all evidence supporting that these murders were racially motivated.

NAPABA is working closely with its Affiliate, the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association on this matter. We are fully committed to providing the necessary resources to the victims and their families to ensure justice ultimately prevails, and our community and our allies may heal and transcend this atrocity.”

NAPABA’s hate crimes resources, including providing pro bono legal assistance, can be found here. NAPABA’s Stand Against Hate campaign, denouncing racism can be found here. NAPABA and its affiliates’ past statements on anti-Asian hate can be found here.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of over 50,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

In the News: Incoming President-Elect William Ng Quoted in Law360 Article About Ways Employers Can Help Asian Workers Amid Anti-Asian Violence

William Ng, incoming President-Elect at AABANY, was recently interviewed for a Law360 article published on February 26, 2021 titled “3 Ways Employers Can Help Asian Workers As Attacks Surge.” Law360 asked legal experts for tips they could share with employers on how they can create a safe environment for their Asian American employees at work during the rise of anti-Asian violence.

The first tip legal experts shared is to acknowledge the problem. Employers need to recognize and denounce the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and bigotry. By doing this, it gives a voice to the Asian American community and lets them know that they are supported. The second tip is to have a game plan. William Ng suggested to Law360 that employers should have a plan for exactly how they will handle a situation of anti-Asian harassment or violence. He stated, “It’s just being aware of these issues and understanding, ‘Hey, if this happens, what will we be doing?'” Suggestions William Ng provided include assembling a security management team and being in contact with local law enforcement. The third tip experts suggested is that employers should use training to empower bystanders such as offering bystander intervention training and implicit bias training.

To read the full article, click here (subscription is required).

NAPABA Calls for Action to End Hate Violence Against Asian Americans

For Immediate Release: Date: March 2, 2021

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON—This past Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would investigate the rise in hate-based violent extremism against Asian Americans that has occurred since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) applauds this necessary undertaking and unequivocally condemns and rejects the violence that has been directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and calls for appropriate law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute offenders.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been over 3,000 recorded hate incidents against the Asian American community, along with concern that law enforcement has been slow or reticent to investigate the incidents.

“NAPABA is deeply troubled by the continued rise of hate crimes and violence against the Asian American community and the hesitant response by the government to counter this disturbing and unacceptable trend,” said A.B. Cruz III, president of NAPABA. “While we appreciate President Biden and the Department of Justice’s acknowledgement of this crisis, we need our government to do more to protect AAPIs. There needs to be proactive coordination between local, state and federal authorities, including prevention and prosecution against such crimes. NAPABA has, and will, continue to work diligently to provide support to assist victims and their families, and action and advocacy to prevent hate crimes and acts of violence against the AAPI community.”

In January, President Biden issued his Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States . However, the attacks against the AAPI community have become even more prominent in February, including:

  • An 84-year-old Thai American man in San Francisco was shoved to the ground during his morning walk and died two days later;
  • A 91-year-old Chinese American man In Oakland was attacked and pushed to the ground when several shops were vandalized in Chinatown;
  • A 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman in San Jose was robbed following a Lunar New Year’s celebration;
  • A 61-year-old Filipino American in New York had his face slashed with a box cutter on the subway; and
  • A 52-year-old Chinese American woman in Queens, New York was physically attacked and shoved to the ground while waiting in line at a bakery.

NAPABA’s hate crimes resources, including providing pro bono legal assistance, can be found here. NAPABA’s Stand Against Hate campaign, denouncing racism can be found here. NAPABA and its affiliates’ past statements on anti-Asian hate can be found here.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of approximately 50,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity in government and the judiciary on the local, state, and federal levels, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

Asian American Federation of New York’s “The Impact of Covid-19 on Asian American Employment in New York City”

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a record rate of job loss for Asian New Yorkers, with unemployment benefit applications increasing by more than 6000% from February to June of 2020.

At 1.3 million people, Asian Americans are over 16% of the population in New York City and are growing faster than all other demographics in the City.

In February 2020, Asian Americans in New York City had a jobless rate of 3.4% — however, Asian American unemployment soared to 25.6% by May 2020, the largest increase among all major racial groups. 

AAF’s latest report:

  • Brings you the key demographic data for decision-makers on how different ethnicities within the Asian American community such as Bengali, Chinese, Korean, and so on, were impacted by job losses
  • Identifies the specific industries that Asian American New Yorkers depend on for work
  • Reveals the industries that lost the greatest amount of jobs due to the pandemic
  • Shares recommendations for private and public leaders to help Asian Americans during the COVID-19 recovery

Get your FREE copy of The Impact of Covid-19 on Asian American Employment in New York City sent to your inbox by completing the form at https://aafcovid19resourcecenter.org/unemployment-report/?mc_cid=6ffdf5cf0b&mc_eid=ddd4d683c8.

AABANY President and Immediate Past President Listed Among City & State’s 100 Most Influential Asian Americans in New York Politics and Policy

Sapna Palla (top) and Brian Song (bottom)
Sapna Palla (top) and Brian Song (bottom)

AABANY is excited to announce that Immediate Past President Brian Song and President Sapna Palla have been included in the 2020 Power List of the 100 Most Influential Asian Americans in New York Politics & Policy, released by City & State. Song and Palla are jointly recognized as 52nd on the list. 

City & State wrote: 

The Asian American Bar Association’s mission is to ensure “the meaningful participation of Asian-Americans in the legal profession.” It has made strides under Sapna Palla, a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP, who is the president for the 2020-2021 term, and under her immediate predecessor, Brian Song, a partner at the top law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP. The organization recently surpassed 1,400 paid members.  

Congratulations and thanks to Brian and Sapna to bringing AABANY to these new heights.

In addition to Brian and Sapna, several others among the honorees have worked with or been associated with AABANY, as members, community partners, or sponsors, to whom we also wish to extend our congratulations.

Among the top 10, AABANY has worked with Grace Meng, New York’s first Asian American US Congress Member; John Liu, State Senator and first Asian American to serve on the City Council; Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition; Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou, both state Assembly Members; and Margaret Chin, New York City Council Member.

From the top 11-50, AABANY congratulates:

  • Wayne Ho, President and CEO of the Chinese-American Planning Council, which has partnered with AABANY on the Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic;
  • Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, one of our community partners;
  • Frank Wu, President of Queens College, who co-authored our most performed trial reenactment, Building Our Legacy: The Murder of Vincent Chin
  • Preet Bharara who, as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was a regular speaker at our annual Prosecutors Reception and an honoree at our Annual Dinner in 2015; 
  • John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, one of our community partners; 
  • Margaret Fung, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of our community partners; 
  • Faiza Saeed, a Presiding Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a Gold Sponsor of AABANY for many years;
  • Honorable Denny Chin, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and past AABANY President (1992-93), who currently helps lead our trial reenactments project.

From 51 – 100 on the list, we extend our congratulations to 

  • Jayasri Ganapathy, President of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), one of our sister bar associations and past AABANY member; 
  • My Chi To, Executive Deputy Superintendent of the Insurance Division at the New York State Department of Financial Services, and past AABANY member; 
  • Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese America, one of our community partners; 
  • Wendy Cai-Lee, President and CEO of Piermont Bank, a Bronze Sponsor of the 2019 NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference; and 
  • Justin Yu, Chair of the New York Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which has partnered with us for many years for our walk-in Pro Bono Clinic.

AABANY is privileged and honored to have worked closely with so many of New York’s most influential Asian American in politics and policy. Congratulations to everyone who made the list, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration and to partner in the future.