Assessing Impact of AAF’s Hope Against Hate Campaign
BY Dena Li and Linying He
The rise in anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic exposed both the deep roots of structural racism and the lack of resources for and information about Asian Americans experiencing anti-Asian bias incidents in New York City. Anti-Asian hate crimes reported to the NYPD rose from 28 in 2020 to 134 in 2021, an increase of 375%. In total, there have been 251 reported anti-Asian hate crimes to the NYPD from January 2020 to March 2023.1 However, hate crime and bias incident data released by the New York Police Department (NYPD) is just a fraction of actual incidents that have occurred.2 For Asian Americans, longstanding distrust of law enforcement, as well as language barriers and uncertain immigration status, are among the major deterrents to reporting a crime. To address these challenges to reporting, a number of local and national organizations, including the Asian American Federation (AAF), created online, self-reporting tools for victims of hate and bias incidents.
According to AAF’s online, in-language reporting tool, some community members reported being physically assaulted and spat on in public spaces. Others were verbally assaulted, with assailants saying things like, “You don’t belong here” or “Go back to your country,” and being scapegoated for causing the COVID-19 virus with vitriol like, “Your people caused this virus because you all eat dogs.” Respondents also reported that bystanders often took no action to help them when incidents of anti-Asian violence occurred. Anecdotes shared with AAF mirrored reports made to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based national coalition that was formed by community organizations and academics in March 2020 to track and respond to bias incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans.
Between March 2020 and March 2022, Stop AAPI Hate’s reporting site received a total of 1,521 reports of bias incidents that occurred in New York City. Analysis of Stop AAPI Hate’s data also reveals that 54% of these instances took place in public areas—a stark reminder of the necessity of establishing support networks rooted in the community and accessible to community members. These networks can effectively address and thwart anti-Asian incidents in the locations where individuals are most susceptible, as well as create more visibility for safety solutions to the hate crisis that is impacting so many Asian New Yorkers.
As early as January 2020, AAF took immediate action to respond to the rise in anti-Asian violence. Recognizing the impact of the Trump administration’s anti-Asian rhetoric, which wrongly blamed the Asian community for the COVID-19 pandemic, we stepped forward to lead the response to the crisis in New York City and organized advocacy initiatives to address the boycotts targeting Asian small businesses.
Based on reports made to AAF’s reporting site as well as incidents reported to AAF’s 70 member and partner organizations, we launched the Hope Against Hate Campaign in 2021, a community-based initiative providing coordinated and ready-to-go solutions to bring immediate safety to and wrap-around support for community members impacted by anti-Asian violence. We created a network of 33 Asian-led, Asian-serving organizations based in Asian neighborhoods throughout New York City and New York State—which all together served 22 ethnic communities in 30 languages—to offer a range of crisis response services in the following areas (Box 1).
Our intention with this Campaign was to create a coordinated, community-based, and community-informed safety network to address the surge in anti-Asian hate violence and to increase overall feelings of safety in Asian communities in New York. The first of its kind in New York, this Campaign would not only increase knowledge of safety strategies for community members of all ages to keep themselves safe, but it would also connect and provide resources to victims of anti-Asian violence.
Box 1 – HAH Program Areas
Community Safety Program: AAF supports organizations to recruit and train volunteers to provide protective presence and protective accompaniment services in Asian-majority neighborhoods throughout New York City. Volunteers are trained in situational awareness, conflict de-escalation, and upstander intervention techniques.
Safe Zones: Through our Safe Zones program, community members impacted by anti-Asian violence can seek resources by going to a designated Safe Zone. These Safe Zones are community-based organizations, small businesses, faith centers, and other community spaces that provide safety information to targeted Asian Americans.
Safety Trainings: AAF equips community members with the skills and tools they need to keep themselves and each other safe through our in-language safety trainings. We work with external training partners, like Nonviolent Peaceforce, to train community members in situational awareness, conflict de-escalation, and upstander intervention strategies. We also provide safety booklets outlining these strategies in English and 13 Asian languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Karen, Korean, Nepali, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
AAF equips community members with the skills and tools they need to keep themselves and each other safe through our in-language safety trainings. We work with external training partners, like Nonviolent Peaceforce, to train community members in situational awareness, conflict de-escalation, and upstander intervention strategies. We also provide safety booklets outlining these strategies in English and 13 Asian languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Karen, Korean, Nepali, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
Community Safety Program and Safe Zones Program Survey
We surveyed 391 residents in the neighborhoods where the Community Safety Program and Safe Zones were conducted, which included Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Chinatown, Manhattan; and Flushing, Queens. We aimed to measure:
- How anti-Asian bias incidents affected their feelings of safety within their neighborhood; and
- How AAF’s program addressed their concerns about community safety.
Of those surveyed, the majority of respondents felt that anti-Asian bias had been increasing in their neighborhood.
Moreover, 63% of respondents were at least sometimes fearful of becoming a victim or witness to an anti-Asian bias incident in their neighborhood.
In fact, nearly 20% of respondents themselves had been a victim or witnessed an anti-Asian bias incident already. Of these people, only 12% reported the incident. The most common reason respondents had for not reporting was that they did not think the police could do anything about it.3
Overall, the most common response about the Community Safety Program and Safe Zones was that these programs helped improve the safety of their neighborhoods.
We also asked respondents about what services they thought would be most effective in preventing and dealing with anti-Asian bias incidents. They indicated that both a neighborhood watch/patrolling service and a stronger relationship between police and our communities would be most effective. Their responses are a reflection of our communities’ overall reluctance to report bias incidents to the police due to their distrust of law enforcement. At the same time, they would like to see improvements in the ways that police interact with and support Asian residents to better reflect their safety concerns.
They also indicated that the greatest need they had in dealing with anti-Asian bias incidents was mental health services.
Safety Training Evaluation Survey
Safety trainings were the most widely sought-after service by Asian New Yorkers. To understand the impact of this area of the Campaign, we surveyed 630 participants of our safety trainings after they completed a training in order to understand:
- How they evaluated the overall safety strategies they were trained in; and
- Which of the various strategies were most effective.
At the time of the survey, a significant number of respondents said that they had felt fear within the previous three months of becoming a victim of an anti-Asian bias incident. While the level of fear varied among respondents, with a relatively even distribution across different frequency levels, the majority of participants reported that the safety training had a positive effect in reducing their fear.
Most respondents also felt that the safety training could help them cope with anti-Asian bias incidents.
Strategies that were most favored as a coping strategy were situational awareness, physical self-defense, and verbal de-escalation, respectively. Although upstander intervention was ranked last, 28.4% of respondents still listed it as a helpful coping strategy.
All Survey Charts
Asian New Yorkers’ experiences with racism and discrimination were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of increasing anti-Asian bias incidents, including several high-profile killings, Asian Americans’ sense of safety and belonging has been affected in ways that they will not soon forget.
As anti-Asian hate persists, AAF’s Hope Against Hate Campaign has played a crucial role in providing culturally relevant resources and support systems to our most vulnerable community members. The survey findings presented here clearly demonstrate that there is a pressing need to continue and sustain the Campaign. The survey on the Community Safety Program and Safe Zones shows that respondents continue to be fearful and reluctant about reporting anti-Asian bias incidents to law enforcement, underscoring the necessity of community-led efforts to address these incidents. The survey on safety trainings indicates that these efforts have had a positive effect on participants by reducing their fears and providing helpful coping strategies. Respondents have also indicated that their greatest need is for mental health services to help them cope with anti-Asian bias incidents: this finding emphasizes the importance of holistic support for those affected by such violence.
While legislative reform is slowly catching up to the needs of Asian Americans, particularly in New York, it is vital to support community-based organizations and initiatives like the Hope Against Hate Campaign that have been working hard on the ground to offer essential, culturally sensitive safety services to our communities in the face of relentless violence.4 Anti-Asian hate may have faded from the media spotlight, but the struggle to protect our community from attacks is far from over.
This research report is only the beginning. In 2020, in response to mounting anti-Asian hate, we launched the Hope Against Hate Campaign to empower, heal, and give our communities the tools to keep themselves safe. Two years into the Campaign, we hope that this data will challenge decision-makers at all levels of government to consider anti-Asian hate not as a transient phenomenon but as an ever-present reality that they must address through a sustained, systematic effort in order to ensure safety and justice for our most vulnerable communities.
This brief provides evaluation survey findings from program areas under AAF’s Hope Against Hate Campaign, namely: the Community Safety Program, Safe Zones, and Safety Trainings. The respondents of these surveys were recruited through AAF’s member and partner organizations using convenience sampling. Note that this was not a randomized sample. As a result, there were more females than any other gender and more adults than seniors among respondents. We advise readers to use caution when interpreting results while using the gender and age group filters. Some respondents also left answers for questions that did not apply to them given their previous responses. Such answers may reflect people’s views and preferences rather than actual experiences. Some also selected the “Not sure” option for questions that offered that option, even if the question did not apply to them. There may therefore be discrepancies between the number of responses for questions that are related.
- Source: NYPD Hate Crime Dashboard
- As defined by the U.S NYPD Hate Crimes DashboardNYPD Hate Crimes Dashboard. Department of Justice, a hate crime is a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability, whereas bias incidents include acts of prejudice that are not crimes and do not involve violence, threats, or property damage. Source: US Department of Justice https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/learn-about-hate-crimes
- That is excluding being unsure among the reasons for not reporting.
- Congresswoman Grace Meng’s measure, which she introduced with Senator Hirono, was signed into law in 2021.
This brief was authored by Linying He and Dena Li. Special thanks to Jenny Shin, Meera Venugopal, Annie Yang, Joo Han, and Daphne Thammasila for review and edits.
Thank you to our member organizations and Hope Against Hate partners who helped us with these findings: Desis Rising Up and Moving, Korean American Civic Empowerment, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Midtown Utica Community Center, Minkwon, RaisingHealth Partners, Refugees Helping Refugees, and Woodside on the Move.
All of our supporters of the Hope Against Hate Campaign can be found here. Thank you for your onging support of this work.