Commemorating the One Year Anniversary of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act — Invest in Communities Impacted by Hate
May 20, 2022, marks the one-year anniversary of the historic passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which was signed into law by President Biden. This bill is a critical step to addressing the current rise in anti-Asian hate while holding law enforcement accountable for tracking and reporting hate crimes. One year later, Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC reflects on this historic moment, while looking forward to how we can further protect, empower, and invest in communities impacted by hate.
Advancing Justice — AAJC, along with many national civil rights organizations, has long been advocating for legislative measures to address hate and discrimination impacting our communities. Since 2020, we expanded our engagement in response to the rising violence facing Asian Americans who have been enduring the dual pandemics of anti-Asian hate and COVID-19.
This legislation brings together two complementary legislative proposals — the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act — to address anti-Asian hate and provide broader infrastructural improvements needed in hate crimes data collection, reporting, and connection to support services. We worked in conjunction with Senator Mazie Hirono, Representative Grace Meng, and members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to support this bill, as well as allied civil rights organizations, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Representative Don Beyer, who led advocacy on the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act provides much-needed resources to communities impacted by hate, including expanding language access and allowing for culturally competent and linguistically accessible public education campaigns. The emphasis on language access is crucial for increasing outreach to share information about reporting and support services with our communities, especially to first-generation immigrants who might be limited English proficient. It is important that Asian Americans who are looking to seek help from law enforcement and the criminal justice system are not turned away or dismissed due to language barriers. We appreciate provisions in the bill that improve training for law enforcement and look forward to working with the federal government on implementation.
The bill also moves forward improvements in data collection procedures and responses to hate crimes to keep the government and law enforcement agencies accountable to our communities’ needs. Another key provision of the bill centers on allocating resources for community solutions, including non-law enforcement support services for victims and communities such as state-run hate crimes hotlines operated by social services agencies, as well as measures to expand restorative justice practices and alternative sentencing.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act encourages direct engagement by government agencies with community leaders and community-based organizations, which is an important step towards building more community-oriented solutions to hate crimes and incidents and fostering a sense of solidarity and safety, instead of incarceration and punishment. This is essential and beneficial for marginalized communities, including Asian Americans and broader BIPOC groups, religious minorities, immigrants, women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA+ communities.
While the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is an important step to address the needs of impacted communities, more work remains to be done to tackle discrimination and hate against the Asian American community, including:
- Advocating to see that different components of this legislation are properly implemented and funded.
- Calling for greater investment in our communities, including improvements in social services and programs that create an environment where people not only feel safe, but also are able to thrive.
- Advocating for more diverse and inclusive education in our schools, including the teaching of Asian American history, as a long-term solution to dismantling harmful stereotypes and addressing racial bias before it can take root.
- Pushing for community-oriented solutions that bring us closer to healing and justice, while ensuring robust enforcement of anti-discrimination laws to protect our communities.
In our collective fight against hate and violence in all forms, we have worked with so many trailblazing advocates to push for change at the local, state, and federal level to better serve our communities. This work would not have been possible without the support of our partners and the broader community. Advancing Justice — AAJC will continue to advocate with Congress, the White House, and federal agencies to advance laws and policies that address anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents. In this process, your support is vital as we work to promote a fair and equitable society for all.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at advancingjustice-aajc.org.