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. 

Fall Conference 2020: Allyship and Black Lives Matter—Racism, Bias, and Xenophobia in Our Communities

On September 26, 2020, as part of AABANY’s 11th Annual Fall Conference, the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee hosted a plenary session on the ongoing racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd and the rise in xenophobia against Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic. The panel included:  

  • Margaret T. Ling, Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair at AABANY and Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. (Moderator)
  • Letitia James, 67th Attorney General for the State of New York
  • Rahul Agarwal, Executive Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey
  • Paula T. Edgar, Attorney, CEO of PGE LLC, and Partner of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
  • Chris Kwok, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee and Asia Practice Committee at AABANY and a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS
  • Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights

The esteemed panel discussed their experience addressing the issues of racism, bias, and xenophobia in their different capacities as government officials, bar association leaders, and diversity and inclusion specialists, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. As the opening speaker, Paula Edgar provided an informative presentation on systemic racism, the varying responses of Corporate America, and the importance for companies and law firms to invest in resources for diversity training as part of an urgent call to incorporate actionable plans into their missions for equity and inclusion. More importantly, allyship transcends performative activism, or surface-level activism, on social media and demands a sustained and active approach to listen to the experiences of marginalized communities, educate oneself on race-related history and issues, and speak out against any injustice. 

In highlighting the importance of using our vote at this historical moment, New York State Attorney General Letitia James suggested that the participation of more people of color in law-enforcement can be one of the ways to sustain the BLM movement and push for substantive, lasting changes. Some of the projects at the Attorney General’s Office include a lawsuit against the US Postal Service for their attempt to delay the vote-by-mail ballots and an effort to advocate for immigrants to ensure that they are counted in the 2020 US Census. Attorney General James emphasized the need to stay hopeful and utilize our vote as citizens to protect our democracy. 

Rahul Agarwal focused on the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and stressed the importance of active reporting on the part of community members to help law enforcement personnel investigate these crimes and open cases. Rahul explained that the law enforcement community takes reports on hate crimes very seriously because the perpetrators’ hatred often affects many individuals, and since the targeted population can become fearful, it is crucial for law enforcement to act quickly. 

Noting from a survey the significant increase in people’s perception and experience with racial inequality since 2016, Carmelyn Malalis described the active outreach by the New York City Commission on Human Rights to marginalized communities and its employment of staffers who speak a total of over 30 different languages at the Commission to increase community engagement. Echoing Attorney General James’ comment on the value of allyship, Commissioner Malalis added that allyship also means recognizing that the constructed narratives about marginalized groups are often inconsistent with the lived experiences of people in those communities. She emphasized the need to actively work on dismantling one’s biased preconceptions. 

Referring to the Stop AAPI Hate’s recent record of about 2,600 hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans in the past six months, Chris Kwok suggested that the actual number is most likely a lot higher since there has been insufficient attention directed towards AAPI hate crimes and a general lack of active reporting in the AAPI community. Chris highlighted the importance for Asian Americans to support the BLM movement since we are all fighting to challenge white supremacy and ensure justice in the United States. He concludes by emphasizing the need to say “BLM”— since black lives had been defined as property for decades, we, as allies in the BLM movement, should acknowledge the hashtag’s reflection of that history and recognition of the equal rights that every person deserves.

Thank you to Margaret, Attorney General James, Commissioner Malalis, Rahul, Paula, and Chris, for this insightful panel discussion. Thanks also to the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee for organizing this event. To view a recording of the plenary session, click here or on the image above.

Fall Conference 2020: Enforcement in a Fragmented World

On September 26, 2020, as part of the second day of the 2020 Fall Conference, AABANY hosted Enforcement in a Fragmented World, a panel on unique challenges currently facing attorneys representing clients in white collar and enforcement matters. On the panel were:

  • Edward Y. Kim, Co-Founder of Krieger Kim & Lewin LLP (Moderator)
  • Charu Chandrasekhar, Assistant Regional Director of the Division of Enforcement of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Una Dean, Partner at Fried Frank LLP
  • Joon H. Kim, Partner at Cleary Gottlieb (and former Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York)
  • Leo R. Tsao, Chief of the Bank Integrity Unit at the U.S. Department of Justice

The discussion started with the panelists talking about how their work has been affected by the pandemic. They discussed how a lot of the work they do — interviewing witnesses, talking and negotiating with the authorities, and gathering information — relied on in-person work. However, they agreed that justice delayed is justice denied, especially for the people and companies they are investigating. With statutes of limitations and fading memories, enforcement attorneys have been interviewing people over video and phone calls. Despite many successful interviews, they still have the obstacle of building relationships and rapport with potential cooperators over the phone. All in all, they agreed that enforcement has been very active recently and will continue to be for years to come.

Then, each of the attorneys discussed their personal experiences in enforcement. Although the attorneys each had different career paths, they agreed that they all loved their jobs because they are able to focus on doing justice, not winning cases. They discussed how their job is also an incredible honor and responsibility to be able to serve their community and country.

Next, the speakers talked about challenges they have encountered as Asian Pacific American (APA) practitioners. While dealing with drastic underrepresentation in their fields, as well as the ever persistent Model Minority Myth and the Perpetual Foreigner stereotype, the attorneys often faced overt and subtle racism in their work. However, they see a strong trend in many organizations towards actively diversifying the workplace to create a base of attorneys who actually reflect the communities they serve. Additionally, Chandrasekhar and Dean discussed the added challenges of being female APA practitioners. They discussed how government work can actually be a great equalizer. Although there are still many difficulties that come with many sacrifices and compromises, women in government service are taught to stand up and speak out in court about their cases, which builds confidence.

The panel concluded with some of the attorneys discussing the importance of separating the system from the service. They agreed that there are many serious injustices and inequities in the justice system, and the justice system must be reformed and improved by educating people within the justice system. The speakers acknowledged that many of the people working and handling individual cases within the system are genuinely passionate about upholding justice. And these attorneys will continue to do so proudly for the rest of their careers.

In these uncertain times, it is incredibly inspiring to hear from leading practitioners and enforcers in the field of white collar enforcement. Thank you to the panelists Charu Chandrasekhar, Una Dean, Joon H. Kim, and Leo R. Tsao and moderator Edward Y. Kim for sharing their experience and insights in the field of justice.

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