The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates Issues Committee Chair, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair and Board Director Chris Kwok on his recent article published on September 1, 2020 in the New York Law Journal entitled “Mediating Employment Disputes Ethically: Ensuring Quality and Fairness in the #MeToo, #BLM, #COVID-19 Era.”
In the article, Mr. Kwok begins by exploring the value of mediation and the importance of mediators upholding ethical standards to ensure a just process in the #MeToo, #BLM, #COVID-19 era. Mr. Kwok then delves into the novel challenges that virtual negotiations bring, ranging from the issue of confidentiality and stability of internet connections to the ethics of avoiding categorization of damages as reparations for sexual harassment.
In 2005, the American Arbitration Association, American Bar Association, and Association for Conflict Resolution promulgated the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators that has since served as a central guide for mediators who encounter ethical conundrums. The article concludes by suggesting that the emergence of unprecedented technological and confidentiality concerns in a challenging time call for a potential revisitation of the Model Standards of Conduct and prompts readers to ponder the changing scope of ethical duties mediators need to take on.
The Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) congratulates Issues Committee Chair, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair and Board Director Chris Kwok on his recent law review article about the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (“SHSAT”) in the Berkeley Law Asian American Law Journal. The article, “The Inscrutable SHSAT,” can be found in Volume 27, at page 32. Click here to read the full text.
The article begins with a detailed discussion regarding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s exclusion of the Asian American community in attempting to eliminate the SHSAT and the ensuing backlash that derailed the proposed plan. The discussion then shifts toward alternative explanations for the racial composition of the specialized high schools and how the rise of Prep for Prep, Charter Schools, and School Choice have contributed to the decline of African American and Latinx students in those schools. Finally, the article concludes with an overall commentary on the current position of Asian Americans within America’s “racial matrix” and stresses the need to shift away from antiquated frameworks of social justice toward a more current and nuanced understanding of Asian Americans in politics today.
Aside from his recent publication, Chris has organized numerous panels and discussions regarding Asian American rights in the corporate sphere and beyond. AABANY applauds Chris for his insights on the shifting nature of race relations today and his commitment toward advancing the rights and interests of the Asian American community. Click here to read AABANY’s previous profile on Chris.
On August 4, 2020, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) hosted a book talk on CUNY Professor Margaret Chin’s new book, Stuck – Why Asian Americans Don’t Reach the Top of the Corporate Ladder. Moderated by Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director and Chair of AABANY’s Issues Committee, the virtual webinar received over 300 registrations from legal and non-legal professionals. Conversation centered around the book’s subject — invisible challenges Asian Americans face when it comes to upward corporate mobility.
Professor Margaret Chin began the panel by articulating the difficulty that Asian American professionals face in moving from mid-level management to the C-suites. Chin has discovered two critical factors that explain why. The first is that Asian Americans are hidden from the research. Only in the past five years has research been done on the corporate mobility challenges facing the Asian American professionals, demonstrating not only the invisibility of Asian Americans in racial discussions but a lack of awareness of the “bamboo ceiling.” The second is trust. Through her interviews with corporate executives, Chin discerned trust as a leading factor in who is and who isn’t promoted. Trust, however, also opens the door for implicit bias. Oftentimes, those who are seen as part of the “in-group” or white are seen as more trustworthy, leaving racial minorities at a disadvantage.
A Q&A session followed the talk, during which Chris, as moderator, posed questions sent via chat to Professor Chin. One audience member asked Professor Chin what inspired her to write this book. Her answer recounted a class reunion where she realized that while many Asian Americans are admitted to Ivy League and top tier universities, there was no research on their career paths post-education. This reveals the false assumption that once an Asian American achieves an elite education, their career is set. Another question asked Professor Chin for solutions to the lack of upward mobility faced by Asian professionals. To this, she discussed how through her interviews with Asian executives, she discovered the importance of early career resources such as college career offices, formal corporate programs, and other similar programs. These have proven to be particularly helpful to non-white professionals who often do not have strong networks or resources at their disposal. Nonetheless, these are not the only solutions, leading Professor Chin to reiterate the need for more research on the “bamboo ceiling” in order to drive change.
Thank you to Professor Margaret Chin for her time and insight and Chris Kwok for moderating. Congratulations to Professor Chin on her book, which was released on August 11. We encourage anyone interested in this hot topic to purchase the book, which is available here. For those looking to continue this important discussion, please email Chris Kwok at [email protected] to participate in his book club which will gather together readers of the book for further conversations about the book’s findings and conclusions.
On June 17, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is hosting a digital film screening and discussion for the film, Down a Dark Stairwell. Directed by Ursula Liang, the film follows the events that occurred after November 20, 2014, when a Chinese-American police officer, Peter Liang, killed an innocent, unarmed Black man, Akai Gurley. Liang became the first New York Police Department officer to be convicted of an on-duty shooting in over a decade. His sentence sparked protests in both the Asian-American and African-American communities and highlighted the systemic inequities of our criminal justice system.
Down a Dark Stairwell is available on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival’s website until June 20. On June 17, the Film Festival will host a film screening at 6:30 PM EDT and a live Q&A session at 8:00 PM EDT moderated by Gerry Johnson, Editor & Senior strategist at the Human Rights Watch, and featuring filmmaker Ursula Liang; Brandon D. Anderson, founder of Raheem.ai, a website for reporting police conduct in the United States; and Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigrant Coalition. To register for the Q&A discussion, see https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/register/cjjcedqp.
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.
On Friday, April 3rd, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) hosted a webinar titled “Pandemic and Acts of Hate Against Asian Americans: From Past to Present.” The webinar traced the historical roots of Asian American discrimination related to disease and public health issues and presented solutions for the present in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The webinar featured a panel which included Professor Jack Chin of UC Davis Law School, Matt Stevens of The New York Times’s Political News division, Harpreet Singh Mokha of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, and Rahat N. Babar, Special Counsel, Office of the Governor of New Jersey. Chris M. Kwok, the NAPABA Dispute Resolution Committee Co-Chair and our very own AABANY Issues Committee Chair, helmed the panel as moderator.
Professor Chin began by outlining the extensive history of anti-Asian discrimination within the United States. He focused on how discriminatory legislation at the state level in California and at the national level through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 frequently correlated Asian American immigrants with disease. In particular, Professor Chin noted how San Francisco became a focal point of race-based efforts to control the bubonic plague in the early 1900s. Multiple political attempts were made to isolate and discriminate against Asians in the city which were repeatedly rebuffed by legal challenges such as Wong Wai v. Williamson and Jew Ho v. Williamson. Professor Chin underscored the ugly but recurring theme pushed in American politics about the “foreignness of germs.”
Following the professor’s historical account, Matt Stevens, an Asian American political reporter for The New York Times, noted the efforts that legislators are making to combat these acts of discrimination. Moreover, he noted the pervasive feeling of fear that permeates the Asian American community.
Harpreet Singh Mokha, National Program Manager for Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) issues at the Community Relations Service of the DOJ, explained the role and function of CRS during this pandemic. Established under Title X of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS, frequently called “America’s Peacemakers,” works directly with communities facing conflict on racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, and disability issues. It has four primary functions: facilitating dialogue, mediating conflict, training community members, and providing consultation for methods of community assistance. Mr. Mokha noted that members of communities all across the country should be encouraged to make use of CRS’s resources and report hate crimes at their first occurrence.
To wrap up the panel, Rahat Babar, Special Counsel for Litigation with the Office of the New Jersey Governor, echoed Mr. Mokha’s point to report hate crimes without hesitation. He noted a 2020 in-state report which found a 65% increase in bias incidents between 2018 and 2019 with 46% of those engaging in such bias incidents being minors. Thanks to this report, Governor Phil Murphy was able to set up a task force to explore why minors were engaging in such behavior. Mr. Babar notes that without a robust data set of incident or hate crime reports, lawmakers and community leaders will not be able to identify root problems or pose solutions.
Overall, the panel outlined past and present cases of racial discrimination targeted towards the AAPI community. All panelists acknowledged the importance of speaking out during this time of uncertainty for the sake of protecting fellow community members both now and in the future.
This event reached the largest audience for a NAPABA webinar to date, with 160 registrants. The program stressed placing the events of today within historical understanding of America, engagement with our government institutions charged with enforcing our laws, and collaboration across civil society organizations. We at AABANY thank and acknowledge Chris Kwok for proposing this program to NAPABA and serving as moderator.
On March 26, 2020, the New York Daily News published an op-ed co-authored by Chris Kwok. The piece is entitled “Weaponized coronavirus language is endangering Asian-American lives.” (Chris, who sits on the AABANY Board and chairs the Issues Committee, co-wrote the op-ed in his capacity as a Board member of the Asian American Federation).
The article discusses how anti-Asian rhetoric and labeling the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” is endangering the lives of Asian Americans across the United States. It also provides historical examples of what happens when you link a disease to a particular group of people. It can easily lead to stigma and violence against that group. For example, in the 14th century, Jews were accused of spreading the Bubonic Plague in Europe and massacred. Similarly, in the 1980s to 1990s gay people were blamed for spreading AIDS and suffered violence as a result.
Furthermore, the article notes that this is not the first time Asian Americans have faced something like this in the United States. In the 1850s to 1890s, the Chinese were accused of being carriers of venereal disease and leprosy. As a result of the openly anti-Chinese rhetoric during that period, Chinese people were “…rounded up into thousands of railroad cars, steamers, or logging rafts, marched out of town, or killed.”
Now, history seems to be repeating itself as the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is falsely being attributed to Asian Americans. In recent weeks we have seen a spike in xenophobic incidents targeting Asian Americans throughout the nation. Such incidents include “…Asian Americans being beaten, slashed, kicked, spat at, sprayed with things, yelled at or ostracized in public.” To make matters worse, President Trump’s deliberate campaign to label the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” has put Asian Americans at an even higher risk.
On Monday, July 15th, AABANY, along with SABANY, co-sponsored a panel on Careers in Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) at the JAMS office located on the 16th floor of the New York Times Building at 620 8th Ave. The panel featured Dr. Kabir Dhuggal, Senior Associate at Arnold & Porter, Robyn Weinstein, ADR Administrator at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Rebecca Price, Director of the ADR program at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Chris Kwok, mediator and arbitrator at JAMS, ADR Services. Chris Kwok is a Board Director of AABANY, Co-Chair of the Asia Practice Committee, and Chair of the Issues Committee. The panel was moderated by Amit Kumar, Managing Attorney at the Law Offices of William Cafaro.
After a brief introduction of the panelists, Kumar first asked panelists, “How did you become involved in ADR?” The panelists’ responses ranged from studying it early in law school to falling into the realm of ADR later. Price noted her background as a social worker in helping to make the transition to working in ADR more naturally. Kwok affirmed that and humorously added, “When I try to describe mediation, I sometimes tell people that I’m a psychologist with a law degree.”
The panelists also spoke on key skills for thriving in a career in ADR. These skills included patience, engaged listening, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a genuine passion for the work. Dr. Dhuggal especially emphasized the necessity of robust legal writing skills. He advised, “Legal writing is an art that needs to be finessed. Make every effort you can. A simple way to do this is to find a senior whose writing you particularly admire and tell them that you’d like to co-author a piece with them.” Everyone commented on the importance of meaningful networking as well—be it through organizations such as AABANY and SABANY to even organizing panels with professionals you’d like to reach out to.
Other topics discussed during the well-attended panel included improving diversity in ADR, domestic ADR vs. international ADR, and predictions on future trends in the career pathway. Afterwards, attendees munched on assorted snacks from Cafe Zaiya while networking—as discussed during the panel. Thank you to all of our accomplished panelists for sharing their valuable insights!
On Friday, May 17, 2019, Sandra Ung, New York State Committee Woman, and Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director, Issues Committee Chair and Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair, presented a legal seminar for small business owners at Flushing Library. The speakers were Tiffany Ma, Young & Ma, LLP, and William Ng, Littler Mendelson P.C., and they addressed a wide array of issues faced by small business owners in both Mandarin and English.
The discussion centered around how small business owners can take steps to make sure they comply with Federal, State, and City employment laws to avoid liability. In particular, the speakers addressed the minimum wage requirements, the importance of maintaining unemployment insurance, the prevention of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment claims, compliance with ADA accommodation requirements and the New York State Paid Family Leave Act.
There was serious discussion on the pressures small businesses face within the legal regulatory framework, with the additional language and cultural barriers faced by first generation immigrant business owners.
The event was also covered by the World Journal and Sing Tao Daily. To read more about the event from the World Journal, click here. To read more about the event from Sing Tao Daily, click here.
We thank Sandra Ung and Chris Kwok for organizing this information session. We also thank the speakers, Tiffany Ma and William Ng, for volunteering their time to address the concerns of small business owners.
On Tuesday April 30, 2019, Asia Society and the Asian American Bar Association of New York co-hosted a lively discussion on the lawsuit Students for Fair Admission vs. Harvard University. Currently winding its way through the Federal courts, Asian Americans and affirmative action have become a point of focus in contemporary political debate.
Within the Asian American community itself, a grassroots Asian American conservative movement has emerged in the last decade, in an attempt to end affirmative action. This conservative movement alleges that admissions discrimination in the name of diversity is wrong. That view was represented by Jack Ouyang, from the Asian American Coalition for Education.
Asian American liberals believe that conservative Asian Americans are being used as cover to abolish affirmative action, and fear a defeat of affirmative action means a loss for diversity in all of higher education. Nicole Gon Ochi from Asian American Advancing Justice -LA represented the view.
Dr. Van Tran, Columbia University sociologist, presented new research on what Asian Americans thought of affirmative action.
Audience members were treated to a deep dive into the issue, with views from both sides represented on the podium. A reception followed, at which attendees got to continue their conversations around this important topic.
Thanks to everyone who came out for this event. Thanks especially to all the speakers for their insights and views. See below for short bios of all the speakers. (Thanks to Elsa Ruiz for the event photos.)
Chris M. Kwok, Esq. (moderator) serves as the Co-Chair of the Issues Committee and Asia Practice Committee for the Asian American Bar Association of New York. He received his B.A from Cornell University with a major in Government and minor in Asian American studies, and his J.D from UCLA Law School, where he served on the staff of the Asian American Pacific Islander Law Journal. Formerly, he was the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Coordinator at the U.S. Equal Employment Commission in the New York District office. He is a mediator with JAMS.
Dr. Van C. Tran is a professor of Sociology at Columbia University whose research and writing broadly focuses on the incorporation of Asian immigrants and their children into American culture, politics and society. He has served in many positions at both the Eastern Sociological Society and the American Sociological Association. He is a frequent commentator in the media and was selected as an NPR Source of the Week in July of 2015.
Nicole Gon Ochi, Esq. is the Supervising Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice—LA’s Impact Litigation unit. She joined Advancing Justice as a Skadden Fellow in 2010 and has taken a lead role in litigating and providing advocacy on matters involving employment discrimination, education, workers’ rights, affordable housing preservation, language access, and civil rights.
Dr. Jack Ouyang is the Vice President of Operations at the Asian American Coalition for Education. Mr. Ouyang has been an outspoken Chinese American civil rights activist and was a key organizer of the Chinese American for Equality. He was a board chair at the Millburn Short Hills Chinese Association and the Millburn Institute of Talent. He is currently an IT Professional based in New Jersey.