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.

Model Minority vs Covid-19: Education through Crisis, For Asians in America

Date: Wednesday, June 17, 2020 | Time: 4PM to 5PM

This event will be broadcasted via Facebook Live on the Queens Memory Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/queensmemory.

Covid-19 has sparked an increase in racism against East Asians in America, whether immigrant or native born. However, racism against all groups of Asian descent has been around for much longer, with racist stereotypes and the model minority myth. Join Queens Memory and partners for an online discussion about the current higher educational experience for Asians in America, who are facing the continuously evolving challenge of racism. Also to be discussed is how Asians in America can provide ally-ship and solidarity to other groups that are experiencing racial oppression.

Moderator

  • Frank Wu, President-Designate, Queens College/CUNY

Panel

  • Joyce Moy, Executive Director, AAARI-CUNY
  • Vivian Louie, Director, Asian American Studies Program & Center, Hunter College/CUNY
  • John Chin, Professor, Urban Policy and Planning, Hunter College/CUNY
  • Madhulika Khandelwal, Director, Asian/American Center, Queens College/CUNY
  • Student Representative from the Student Council, Asian/American Center, Queens College/CUNY

Program sponsored by the Queens Memory COVID-19 Project of Queens College and Queens Public Library, Queens College Asian American Center, and Asian American / Asian Research Institute – City University of New York

MNAPABA and NAPABA Stand in Solidarity with the Black Community

The Minnesota National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (MNAPABA) and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) released the following statement on June 2, 2020:

“The events of the past few weeks—the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, as well as numerous incidents of explicit bigotry, bias, and brutality—are nothing less than disturbing and heartbreaking. The Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association (MNAPABA) and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) stand in solidarity with our Black neighbors in the Twin Cities and beyond.

We demand change. When there is an imbalance of power, our position as members of the Bar and our understanding of the rule of law makes it even more critical that we stand strong against any form of injustice. We recognize the generational failures of our government and criminal justice systems in protecting the Constitutional and human rights afforded to Blacks. 

We must address deeply rooted racism in our society. We must work to create trust and fairness in our legal system by addressing systemic bias in the law to safeguard civil rights, civil liberties, and justice for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious background, or immigration status.

MNAPABA and NAPABA stand in solidarity with the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL) and the National Bar Association (NBA) as they seek justice and reform at a local and national level. We stand in unity with our affiliated Asian Pacific American bars and sister bar associations in speaking out against racism in all its forms.”

NYCCHR Chair and Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis’ Response to a Rise in Anti-Asian Harassment and Hate Crimes

The recent spike in Anti-Asian harassment and hate crimes have prompted a strong response by NYCCHR Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis. Encouraging New Yorkers to stand together against discrimination, she describes the history of scapegoating in times of crisis and the dangers of fearmongering. She encourages individuals to combat Asian-American stereotypes and misconceptions that underplay anti-Asian racism. With Malalis at the helm, the NYCCHR has formed a COVID-19 response team to handle reports of discrimination and harassment. She strongly encourages victims and bystanders to record and report such incidents to the NYC Commission on Human Rights.

AABANY Signs onto Statement of Support for Resolutions Opposing Anti-Asian Sentiment

On April 27, 2020, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) along with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and many other bar associations signed onto a statement of support for Congressional resolutions opposing anti-Asian sentiment related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has been the target of increasing acts of bias, racism, and xenophobia in connection with the coronavirus. AABANY firmly stands against racism and discrimination and is proud to support efforts to address the experiences our community may face with these issues.

Please visit here for the full statement.

National Bar Associations Denounce Rising Anti-Asian Hate Related to the Coronavirus

Seven national bar associations today released a joint statement denouncing the rising number of incidents involving anti-Asian discrimination and racist remarks related to the coronavirus and COVID-19.

Calling for unity in these challenging times are the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the American Bar Association (ABA), the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), the National LGBT Bar (LGBT Bar), the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), and the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA North America).

“Unfortunately, the emergence of the coronavirus has led to an increase in acts of hate and discrimination targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The legal community stands united against hate. The current situation calls for unity and support—not acts of division and words that sow fear,” said NAPABA President Bonnie Lee Wolf.

The FBI has warned about a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes related to the coronavirus. Numerous community organizations have documented that acts of discrimination and bias are increasing, including incidents involving stereotypes and xenophobic language.

President Wolf continued, “Thank you to our sister bars who issued their own messages of support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community when they saw these acts of hate and discrimination on the rise. A special thank-you to ABA President Judy Perry Martinez, HNBA President Irene Oria, NAWL Executive Director Karen Richardson, LGBT Bar President Wesley Bizzell, NNABA President Robert Saunooke, and SABA North America President Aneesh Mehta for joining me in the video statement to launch this campaign. We encourage other bar associations, law firms, and organizations to join us in denouncing discrimination. We stand together. We stand against hate.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng Introduces Resolution to Denounce Anti-Asian Sentiment Caused by Coronavirus

On March 25, 2020, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives that denounces the anti-Asian sentiment caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus.  

“The increased use of anti-Asian rhetoric, particularly from our nation’s leaders such as the President, and their use of terms like ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus,’ and ‘Kung-flu,’ is not only irresponsible, reckless, and downright disgusting, it threatens the safety of the Asian American community; such language demeans, disparages, and scapegoats Asian Americans,” said Meng. “Asian Americans, like millions of others across the nation, are worried about the coronavirus; however, so many Asian Americans are also living in fear following the dramatic increase of threats and attacks against those of Asian descent. During this time of heightened anxiety and fear surrounding COVID-19, we cannot lose sight of protecting the health and safety of every single person – no matter their race, ethnicity, or background. The House must take a strong stand against the sickening intolerance, bigotry, and violence that is leaving a terrible stain on our nation’s history, especially during this moment of an unprecedented public health crisis. I am grateful to my colleagues who introduced this resolution with me today, and for joining me in saying loud and clear: xenophobia and discrimination is absolutely unacceptable. I strongly urge all of my House of Representatives colleagues, to support this measure, and its passage.”  

The resolution has 124 cosponsors. They include: Reps. Chu, Pressley, Castro, Pascrell, Malinowski, Speier, Watson Coleman, Brown, Takano, Cisneros, Schakowsky, Velázquez, Pingree, Lieu, Napolitano, Correa, Haaland, Huffman, Torres, Blumenauer, Fudge, Cárdenas, Omar, Schrader, Moulton, Suozzi, Lynch, Dingell, Connolly, Case, A. Green, Bonamici, Trone, C. Maloney, Khanna, McGovern, Thompson (CA), Larson, Foster, E. Johnson, Jayapal, Kilmer, Jackson Lee, Lofgren, Porter, Raskin, Lowenthal, DelBene, Castor, Jeffries, Trahan, Smith (WA), Rose, Beyer, Rouda, Costa, Serrano, DeFazio, Krishnamoorthi, Ocasio-Cortez, Cicilline, Kim, Sanchez, Soto, Bustos, McCollum, Pocan, Welch, Sablan, Schiff, Larsen, Higgins, Yarmuth, McEachin, DeLauro, Quigley, Clark, Grijalva, DeGette, Engel, Butterfield, Rush, Deutch, Allred, Eshoo, S. Maloney, Kennedy, D. Davis, Bass, Boyle, Nadler, Lee (CA), Norton, Lewis, Mucarsel-Powell, Bishop, Evans, “Chuy” García, Schneider, Horsford, Carson, Wild, Tlaib, Casten, Craig, Frankel, Meeks, Brownley, Spanberger, Wexton, Vargas, S. Garcia, Hastings, Escobar, Cohen, Vargas, Sherman, Waters, McNerney, Cox, McNerney, Lawrence, Tlaib, and Gallego.  

To learn more and to read the text of the resolution, click here.

NAPABA Denounces Use of Racist Language to Describe Coronavirus

Please read below a statement released by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association on March 18, 2020:

Using the terms ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘Wuhan virus’ to describe the coronavirus and COVID-19 is inaccurate and unacceptable. This disease does not discriminate. We cannot allow racism to rise as we come together to take on this challenge. NAPABA calls on the President and other leaders to stop using this harmful and xenophobic language.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognized using such terms creates harmful stigma against ethnic and minority groups, further endangering public health. Discriminatory language distracts from the problem before us, and only perpetuates unfounded misinformation.

The stereotypes associated with this language have led to a rise in anti-Asian bias and racist attacks related to the coronavirus. NAPABA 
spoke out against this bias and joined a coalition of over 260 organizations, including our member bar associations, calling for leaders to focus on unity and denouncing anti-Asian attacks, xenophobia, and racist language. 

We ask you to do your part to combat racism and promote unity in response to this challenge. Know the facts and encourages others to do the same by referring to the 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AABANY Signs onto NCAPA Letters to Congressional Leadership Urging Them to Denounce Racism and Xenophobia Arising from COVID-19

On March 11, 2020, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) sent two letters to House and Senate leadership, urging them to call for unity and publicly denounce the increase in racist attacks and discrimination against the Asian American community, in the wake of rising concerns over the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

AABANY is proud to be among the signatories for these letters. While we recognize the growing public health and economic threat the virus poses, we believe our leadership needs to be grounded in truth and committed to taking on racism and xenophobia directly.

The letter to House leadership can be viewed here: https://www.aabany.org/resource/resmgr/pdfs/2020/NCAPA_Letter_to_House_Leader.pdf

The letter to Senate leadership can be viewed here: https://www.aabany.org/resource/resmgr/pdfs/2020/NCAPA_Letter_to_Senate_Leade.pdf