Justice Is Not Silent

A resource for talking to our elders about hate crimes and hate incidents and how to report them

By Emily Short, Neil Decenteceo, Vivian Kim, Ting Lin, and Jordan Choy

Justice is not silent. It is time to speak out.

We benefit every day from the sacrifices made by those who came before us. Driven by the promise of political freedom and economic opportunity, our elders joined millions of others to share in the dream that was scratched onto parchment and forged with fire more than two centuries ago. Speaking dozens of languages, worshipping through dozens of faiths, and originating from dozens of nations, they joined our immigrant brothers and sisters to form threads of a flawed but rich tapestry.

We live in trying times. Fear, anger, and hatred threaten to tear apart the fabric that holds our nation together. Countless numbers of hate incidents and hate crimes are committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in our country each year, yet only hundreds of cases are reported to the authorities, masking the thousands more hate incidents which go unreported. More than 900 hate groups operate in the United States, many of them formed around the concept that there is no place for “outsiders” in this country. Spurred on by the blind and the broken, the hateful have made clear that they do not want us here. We cannot be intimidated by this blind and hateful ignorance, we must stand firm in our beliefs, unbent and unbowed.

Crimes and violence are only part of the problem. Hatred also manifests itself through words, messages, and images. While hate incidents are not crimes, they represent underlying conditions that need to be addressed. Where ignorance grows, so does hatred. The temptation for silence is strong, but know that hateful words spewed from snarled lips can easily turn into clenched and bloodied fists. Unless we confront hatred, it will continue to fester like an infection, one that can prove fatal to both our community and our republic. We cannot allow ignorance and lies to destroy our communities, we must create environments for knowledge and truth to prosper. We must encourage our elders to report hate crimes and hate incidents, and we must also be unafraid to report them ourselves. When these incidents occur, please bring these dark impulses to the light. Spread the message and join this fight, and together we can stamp out hatred.

There are many ways in which our generation can join this fight. One of the simplest but most important is to have these difficult conversations with our elders to raise awareness of both the issue of hatred and the resources with which to report hate crimes and hate incidents. There are many organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC which are devoted to promoting civil rights and justice. They are on the front lines of the fight to stamp out hatred and it is important to share with our elders the tools to combat hate crimes and hate incidents. In addition to speaking with our elders, it is also important to use 21st century technology to spread awareness. With the power of social media and the resources available on the internet, we can spread the reach of this campaign. Together our voices can be amplified to reach even the most distant leaders.

The letter was written to the elders of the AAPI community to address the issues of hate crimes and hate incidents targeting the AAPI community. This initiative was a collaboration between the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. CAPAL’s mission is to provide a pipeline for equitable Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) representation in public service, and as interns with CAPAL, we worked on this Community Action Project (CAP) in consultation with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. For more than 25 years, Asian American Advancing Justice | AAJC has fought for the rights of the AAPI community. Earlier this year, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five civil rights organizations of which Advancing Justice | AAJC is one, created the first ever online hate crime tracker for AAPIs. As hate crimes and hate incidents are often under-reported, Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s work is integral to combating this growing problem.

Our CAP project is focused on increasing awareness of what constitutes hate crimes and hate incidents, why it is important to report them, and how they can be reported. To do this, we wrote this letter for elders. Our hope is that you, as readers of this blog, share this resource with mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Please share this letter with them and please be unafraid to speak out. We also would like help in crowdsourcing translations of the letter here so that our elders can be reached in-language. Please share this on social media and together we can maximize our impacts and spread the word.

Justice is not silent. It is time to speak out.

From our nation’s proudest moments to its greatest shames, hatred has always had a presence, whether simmering in silence or bubbling with rage to the surface. But just as our worst characteristics have always had a place, our best characteristics have emerged when confronting hatred. American courage has never been defined by silence. Defiance in the face of injustice is enshrined in our nation’s legends. The streets outside Stonewall, the battlefield of Lexington, and the bridge at Selma all stand as testaments of American resistance to oppression. What will the legends from our community be? It takes courage to speak out and demand to be heard, but we have the footsteps of giants to walk in.

From the Laotian-American refugee who was forced out of her home by American bombs, to the Japanese-American patriot who signed up to fight for a country that wrongfully imprisoned him. From the Chinese-American laborer who built the railroads connecting our nation, to the Pakistani-American soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield, our community has made invaluable contributions to this country. We who broke our backs building this nation. We who mourned and wept when tragedy struck our nation. We who fought, bled, and died fighting in our nation’s wars. We who gave up everything to come and give back to this nation. It is time for us as a community to remind our nation that we are Americans and we are here to stay.

Speak out against hate.

Emily Short, Neil Decenteceo, Vivian Kim, Ting Lin, and Jordan Choy are interns with the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership.