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  • Emily G.

Anti-Asian Hate Crimes and the Legislation that Reinforces It

Photo Credit: CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

Anti-Asian racism and violence has been prevalent in the U.S. ever since before the Civil War. Yet it has become more apparent in the eyes of Americans now than ever, due to the 150 percent spike in hate crimes since the recent COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. citizens are not the only offenders of hate crimes however, as legislation has also provenly turned its back on Asian Americans.

In 1854, there was the California Supreme Court case, People v. Hall, where California knowingly reinforced racism against Asian migrants. People v. Hall was a murder case in which the murder conviction of George W. Hall was reversed because the prosecution witnesses were Chinese. The court justified this decision by saying: “[n]o black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be permitted to give evidence in favor of, or against, a white person.”

People v. Hall is one of the earliest examples of when the law has overlooked people of Asian descent, but unfortunately it was not the last. The recent spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans and migrants alike has left people feeling scared, alone, and helpless, as their community has been purposefully targeted. The call for a solution and protection against these hateful acts has been more police, although many organizations that support Anti-Asian violence argue that “law enforcement doesn’t exist to protect its membership.”

CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, formerly the Committee Against Asian Violence, was developed to “build grassroots community power across diverse poor and working class Asian immigrant communities in New York City.” Their mission is to fight back against rising police and hate violence through the use of base-building, leadership development, campaigns, coalitions, and organizational development, according to Sasha Wijeyeratne and their organizers.

After continually being failed by the institutions that the U.S. is built on, as it does other marginalized groups, CAAAV is taking their power back into their own hands. Studies have shown that “hate crime legislation does not make communities safer from racial violence,” even after the continual call for change.

Photo Credit: The Guardian// John G Mabanglo/EPA

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed in 2009 by President Obama in attempts to protect LGBTQ+ people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, and all marginalized people, from hate crimes. This legislation aims to do so by giving more authority to the U.S. Department of Justice in their prosecution of such crimes, along with increasing their funding along with local law enforcements. However, the problem with doing so contributes to the high rates in mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects people of color. The solution is thought to be increased policing and legislation, yet it is clear that the institution of criminal punishment is already an unjust system as it is.

The system that has already and continually proven that it has many systemic problems, should not be rewarded with more power for doing so. Instead, Wijeyeratne highlights the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, which was developed to promote an alternative to involving law enforcement. Instead of putting their trust into the institutions that have proven to fall short, CAAAV decides to take their power back by building community power.

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