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Community-Led Solutions to Anti-Asian Hate Violence

September 20, 2021 Perspective

For decades, the Asian Law Caucus has centered the needs of survivors of hateful violence, particularly state violence and oppression, in our work. We stand side-by-side with survivors, defending their rights, repairing harm, and enacting policy change to prevent future trauma and violence. In the early 1970s, the San Francisco Police Department targeted Chinatown youth with sweeps and discriminatory dragnets. We stepped in and filed one of our first lawsuits, Chann v. Scott, successfully ending the unconstitutional arrests. Today, we work on everything from criminal justice reform and immigrant rights to protecting community members from unconstitutional surveillance and unlawful evictions.

Amid a recent sharp increase in anti-Asian violence and hate speech, including bullying, harassment, and physical violence, our teams continue to center healing and community safety as we work intensively to address the root causes of anti-Asian violence.

Along with a growing number of organizations and residents, we are helping community members use restorative justice programs to center victims’ needs, repair harm, and reduce future violence. As Danielle Sered of Common Justice shared on the Chasing Justice Podcast recently, “Restorative justice is not a friend-making’s supposed to achieve the very thing survivors want: to know they will not be hurt again and others will not be hurt again.”

We are proud to work closely with California legislators to advocate for resources and direct investments in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, including for restorative justice and community ambassador programs, access to victim’s compensation funds, and mental health support for victims. In July, we joined with our colleagues at Advancing Justice - Los Angeles to celebrate passage of a $166.5 million state investment in AAPI communities’ health and safety. The budget bill included:

  • $110 million for community-based organizations who provide survivor and victim services and violence prevention;
  • $10 million to support restorative justice programs at K-12 schools; and
  • $10 million to improve the disaggregation of data collection and promote data equity and accuracy in understanding and funding AAPI communities, among other investments.

We are also working with partners in the Bay Area and across the country to call for immediate and long-term community-based solutions to racist hate and violence. We have been intentional in not advocating for more funding for law enforcement and policing, as we know that more funding for state violence will not make us safer - it never has, as our clients make clear to us every day.

For years, the Asian Law Caucus has represented Southeast Asian refugees who have criminal convictions, served their time, and are fighting cruel deportation orders to countries they have never known and tear them apart from their loved ones. Many of these Southeast Asian refugees fled war and genocide as young children and then faced anti-Asian violence and bullying in this country. As a result, some joined gangs as youth for protection due to feeling unsafe in communities that are under-resourced and over-policed, which created situations where they also made mistakes and were then subjected to being tried as adults and draconian prison sentences. Without community-centered solutions and a radical reimagining of our criminal legal systems, these cycles of trauma and harm never end. As we’ve learned from our clients, harmed people harm people. Healed people heal their communities. Learn more from this report we issued with Human Impact Partners and Asian Prisoner Support Committee about the impact of systemic violence on Southeast Asian refugee communities.

This past spring, we worked with a table of 100+ AAPI organizations to provide practical policy solutions to help survivors, communities, and allies address violence in ways that lead to collective healing. Our recommendations span from establishing rapid response networks to track and respond to incidents and providing bystander training to funding and supporting restorative justice programs.

As our guide explains, “we recommend a restorative justice approach to hate violence that facilitates accountability and repairing harms, when the individual who was harmed is amenable to this process. It is important to note that restorative justice is only possible when the individual who caused the harm accepts responsibility, and all parties voluntarily agree to engage in the process. The restorative justice process must be facilitated by a person who is well trained in restorative justice practices and equipped with the cultural competency to identify the needs and challenges faced by all parties involved.”

Restorative justice can respond to incidents of violence and prevent them from happening again. But there is also more we must do to ensure the violence never happens in the first place. We need to invest in all the basic tenets of what makes a community safe, secure, and resilient: good jobs and schools, affordable and stable housing, child care, secure healthcare, protected civil rights, art and nature, and much more. We cannot give up on a vision of collective safety and liberation.

At ALC, we’re committed to sharing our work as we explore alternatives to a criminal legal system because we know the current punitive system has only caused more pain and perpetuated deep-running systemic racism. If you are interested in learning more, please check out these resources. We’ll continue to share resources on this site and over email.

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