Asian Americans for Equality: Standing Up Against Hate

Photo courtesy of the Asian American Federation.

As violent crimes against Asian Americans continue to rise and our community mobilizes to #StopAsianHate, there has never been a more important time to speak up against racism, xenophobia sexism and white supremacy. Here’s a recap of some of the ways we at AAFE have been raising our voices in response to the painful and alarming events unfolding across our city and country.

A day after the mass shootings in Atlanta, AAFE released the following statement:

Our thoughts are with the families of the 8 victims who lost their lives in the Atlanta shootings Tuesday afternoon. We at Asian Americans for Equality stand in solidarity with the people of Atlanta as they grieve and begin the healing process. All but one of those who died were women and six of them were of Asian descent. While we do not yet know the motives for these horrific killings, the tragedy that unfolded inside three Asian owned massage parlors has once again sent waves of fear and anger over the Asian American community nationwide. We are heartened by expressions of support from elected officials and today, let us be clear: after so many months of physical and verbal attacks against members of our community, words are not enough. We must demand action from our national and local governments for robust community-based programs and public investment to support all communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The solution is not over-policing but a true commitment to building safe and healthy communities through access to affordable housing, health care, mental health services, education, job training and comprehensive immigration reform. 



It soon became apparent that this was, in fact, a horrific hate crime. At a rally in Union Square March 19 organized by the Asian American Federation, AAFE Co-Executive Director Thomas Yu addressed the events in Atlanta but also some of the brrader issues impacting the community:

We were founded nearly 50 years ago in the heart of Chinatown. Our founders were young activists, many like you, who were inspired by the Black civil rights movement of the 1960s and learned to organize and rally for equal opportunity and justice for all of our communities. If you come here today and understand why Asian lives matter, now you also understand why Black lives matter. They opened the doors for all of us. We are all here together and we step up for one another. When we are attacked, we are all attacked. I just want to say that 50 years ago when our founders started the organization, even to this day we’re still having the same issues. We don’t have affordable housing in our communities. We don’t have access to good jobs. Small businesses are struggling. Seniors need help. We need more mental health services. And it’s not just this past year. Like I said, we’ve been talking about this for 50 years. Right now we are seeing one of the biggest collapses of our local neighborhoods because of Covid. Our immigrant small businesses, our mom-and-pops — they can’t open — our people are put out of work. And we have a crisis of hidden homelessness and Asian poverty that never gets highlighted. We are treated as invisible when we’re 1.2 million people in this city. If Asian Americans were a city, we’d be one of the top 10 biggest cities in the United States. We are not invisible! So I hope the mayor is still listening. Our community is in pain. We need the resources to rebuild – together. And we will step up when other communities are also in need. Let us not forget that I just want to end by saying, hey, I had a bad day, too, all right. But you know what I’m going to do when I have a bad day. I’m going to reach out to my friends, my family and my community and say, ‘What can I go out and do for you.’ I’m going to go to other communities and say, ‘How are you doing? What can I do for you?’ I’m not going to go out and shoot people. We’re going to make our bad day into a better tomorrow for all of us.”

In the New York Daily News, AAFE Co-Executive Director Jennifer Sun talked about the damaging impact from months of hateful rhetoric against Asians by the former president:

“He was very deliberate in his choice of words to intentionally scapegoat and cast blame, and really hold Asian-Americans essentially responsible for the pandemic to distract from his own lack of responsibility and leadership,” said Jennifer Sun, co-executive director at Asian Americans for Equality… The harm goes beyond the physical. Sun noted that many Asian women who lost their jobs, or were widowed during the pandemic are feeling “very fearful” about reentering the workforce because of the risk of being attacked during their commute. “They’re choosing not to go out, so they’re much more isolated now as a result of this,” Sun said. “There’s a fear about going out to buy groceries, running their everyday errands. Some of them are choosing not to get vaccinated because they’re scared of going outside to vaccination sites.”

In another interview, with WCBS-TV, Jennifer Sun added, “It’s important for people to speak out because the anti-Asian rhetoric has had a dehumanizing effect.”

And finally, in a story for NY1, Thomas Yu discussed AAFE’s historic ties to the Black community and the enduring importance of unity across racial groups:

While his organization works to address the needs of the Asian community, their services — like their affordable housing assistance, small business lending program, food pantries and more — are open to anyone who needs it.This community building is part of a larger legacy of Black and Asian solidarity that goes at least as far back as the 1960s… “Now we’re going back to other neighborhoods almost as a debt we owe to help others,” he said. “It reinforces that those bonds are still strong and still there and that we can repair this and those people that did this? We should all condemn them, not just from one group. ”That’s why enlisting people across ethnicities to support the Asian community is so vital in this moment, advocates say. It’s what groups organizing volunteer escorts like the Chinatown Block Watch in NYC are doing as well as localized instances around the country as well.“Racists often don’t come out and perform the most egregious acts when they know there’s a lot of people watching,” said Yu. “You’re held responsible by other people than just the kind of victims that you’re targeting.”