Dozens of Asian American and LGBTQ groups have raised concerns about the Covid-19 hate crime law, which passed in the Senate last month with almost unanimous support.
More than 85 organizations, ranging from the civic engagement nonprofit 18 Million Rising to the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, a federation of LGBTQ organizations of Asian descent, released a statement this week in opposition to the legislation. The bill, which would in part order the Department of Justice to speed up the examination of hate crimes linked to Covid-19 and strengthen law enforcement to better collect data on these crimes, should be resumed by the House this month and has already received support from President Joe Biden.
But groups argue that the legislation fails to provide resources to address the causes of anti-Asian prejudice and, in turn, ignores police violence against black and brown communities.
“What we’re trying to do is call for a redistribution of wealth and resources in areas like health care, housing, social services, because we know that’s the root cause of the violence we see in our communities is because of inequality, ”Jason Wu, co-chair of GAPIMNY-Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders, which helped lead the statement, told NBC Asian America . “The things that will keep us safe require us to think longer-term and systemically about the root causes of violence.”
In the statement, the groups argued that “relying on law enforcement and crime statistics does not prevent violence,” citing continued violence against trans people despite hate crime measures that should protect them. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 44 transgender and gender nonconforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means in 2020 alone. The majority of the victims were black and Latin transgender women.
The organizations also stress that much of the violence is in the hands of law enforcement. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences cited police violence as the leading cause of death among young men in the U.S. About 1 in 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police, according to Researchers.
“Hate crime classifications and statistics do not change the structural conditions that lead to violence against marginalized communities,” the statement read.
Amid the ongoing attacks on Asian Americans linked to the pandemic, Wu said law enforcement had not been helpful or preventative.
“What the police do is show up after, and they issue press releases. And they really take these horrible moments of pain and trauma, and they use them to demand more money for their budgets, “Wu said.” When we know that more police and prisons don’t protect us no, why do we keep asking for the same approaches to violence and crime? ”
Citing the case of Yao Pan Ma, a 61-year-old Chinese American who was attacked while collecting cans to support his family – and remains in a coma – along with other victims of anti-violence -Asian, Wu explained that many people and their families have had to resort to crowdfunding to cover their own health care and other costs, including some of the most pressing needs. Law enforcement does not help in many of these essentials.
“Hate crimes, prosecution and incarceration of the perpetrator do nothing to meet those needs,” Wu said. “It also doesn’t respond to the fact that, at least in New York City, many attacks involve people who have mental health problems, who are poor, potentially homeless… we need to tackle inequalities in our society. ”
Rather than enacting hate crimes legislation, organizations advocate a shift of law enforcement resources to community-based solutions, including non-prison interventions and alternatives. They demanded the withdrawal of police from communities and instead called for investment in mental health care infrastructure, neighborhood trauma centers and community food banks, among other programs.
In addition to these agendas, groups advocated for a reframing of stigma-based violence, recognizing the topic as a public health issue and “so that public policy interventions can be grounded in non-criminal legal research and evidence. prevention efforts ”.
“This means that there are no partnerships, contracts and arrangements between law enforcement and other entities, including data sharing agreements,” the statement read.
It has also strengthened the groups’ commitment to reject any solution that addresses anti-Asian biases with those that are also “inherently anti-black, anti-immigrant and harmful to the most marginalized in our communities.”
Pawan Dhingra, professor of American studies at Amherst College, also questioned the extent to which such measures could even punish people with racial animosity, given the difficulty of proving motive.
“The effectiveness of such legislation in punishing race-based attacks is unclear,” he said. “Abusers rarely make racist remarks or leave clear signs of racial animosity. Without such a smoking gun, it seems racism was irrelevant, but it’s too simplistic an approach. “
Dhingra cautioned against law enforcement solutions, noting that the United States has historically used armed police to protect white males who own property. Experts note that early forms of law enforcement included the policing of Native Americans by early New England settlers to colonial slave patrols that helped wealthy landowners maintain economic order. .
Asian Americans, on the other hand, have a unique relationship with law enforcement, experts said. Due to the myth of the model minority and the stereotype that the group is law-abiding and “decidedly ‘not black'”, some groups of Asian Americans have the privilege of drawing on the strengths of the community. ‘order, said historian Ellen Wu. Japanese and Chinese Americans, in particular, were first rebranded as “good citizens” from the 1940s and 1950s, she said.
“It meant that the Japanese and the Chinese had a perverse advantage – not being seen as criminals meant relative freedom from surveillance, policing and state-sanctioned violence compared to blacks.” .
Wu added that it allowed lawmakers to delegitimize grievances from the black community and justify the growing system of mass incarceration.
But Asian Americans shouldn’t feel too comfortable, Dhingra said, highlighting the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when law enforcement was given broader powers to monitor communities. South Asian Americans and Muslim Americans.
“Everyone should have a stake in how the government police its citizens,” he said.
However, many disagree with the entire statement. Van Tran, a sociologist and associate professor at the Graduate Center at the University of the City of New York, said that while he agreed with the “spirit” of the statement and noted that a model of restorative justice should be integrated into criminal justice, it is not in favor of a total eradication of law enforcement. He also disagreed with the statement’s opposition to the act in part because of his stance on data collection. He said that without statistics, the pain facing the Asian American community is essentially erased by policymakers.
“If you don’t have data to show this phenomenon, then the phenomenon just doesn’t exist, because we live in a very quantified political environment,” Tran said. “Many policymakers often say, ‘Where is the data? Show me.’ Seeing is believing.”
In a pandemic where many older people are uncomfortable or afraid to leave their homes, the bill also allows people to report attacks online, which will also encourage more accurate data collection, which shouldn’t be underestimated, Tran said.
Wu, of GAPIMNY-Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders, pointed out that there are ways to separate data collection from law enforcement, including the online Stop AAPI Hate reporting forum.
“More data is great. And at the same time, it doesn’t have to be related to policing or to prison approaches to that violence, “Wu said.” If visibility is all about supporting policing … It It’s really about extracting resources from our communities that could help address the fact that there is huge income inequality within the Asian American community. ”