Bystander and surveillance footage has helped expose the rising (and undercounted) violence against Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the U.S. As we contend with the grief and rage spurred by these horrific incidents, we join those seeking answer to the urgent question:
How do we keep each other safe?
We know that police are not the answer. The racist violence of police have left far too many communities traumatized, overlooked, or dead. For decades police have targeted Asian sex workers, asylum-seekers, immigrant workers as well as racially profiled and surveilled South Asian and Muslim people. On top of all this: gentrification and discrimination also leave many Asian Americans in poverty– a social condition especially prone to assault by the police, incarceration, and systematic neglect.
Yet across the country, the response to the historic levels of anti-Asian violence under COVID19 has been to increase policing. This is accelerating after the hate crime in Atlanta that killed 8 people, 6* of whom were Asian women working at massage parlors. We must center the reality that sites like massage parlors are already criminalized and surveilled, and police presence results in harassment, assaults, and deaths of people who are suspected of sex work. One crucial story to elevate in support of this point: the tragic death of Yang Song in 2017, brought to light from surveillance video and community organizing.
The U.S. has a long and repetitive history of intensified anti-Asian sentiments during periods of disease and economic instability, as well as relying on incarceration as a colonial tool of dehumanization. This is a moment to disrupt that arc of history.
Video can be employed in different ways for this disruption. One way is to use documentation as a method of bystander intervention (learn more about additional methods like delay, distract, delegate, direct from iHollback). Filming hate can expose abuse, deter violence, substantiate reports, and serve as evidence. These tips will help you assess safety, capture verifiable footage, and navigate the ethics of filming or sharing incidents of hate.
You can also download videos shared by victims (with their consent) or by perpetrators and send them to local advocacy groups to rectify the gaps in data and related gaps in services that help mitigate or address violence. Examples of bystander videos as well as surveillance footage of violence against AAPI community members can be watched here (content warning: physical assaults, verbal harassment, racism).
Additionally, you can share your own story of how acts of violence against the AAPI community (or acts of kindness) has impacted you. Sharing and amplifying these narratives can help preserve important historical memory and contribute to cultural shift. Watch this video for inspiration from AAPI activists like Amanda Nguyen, Andrew Yang, Eva Chen, Charlotte Cho, and Benny Luo. You can also make an advocacy video that mobilizes people around holistic approaches towards public safety that do not rely on police, or even take to platforms like TikTok to correct damaging misconceptions. Video can also help local media publicize local options for protection and care of those vulnerable to hate.
How you can engage with other community-based movements for AAPI safety:
- Submit incidents of hate to Stop AAPI Hate , a reporting center that aggregates data of AAPI hate to inform resources, advocacy, and efforts towards community-based safety and restorative justice.
- Amplify initiatives like the Chinatown accompaniment and de-escalation program by “The Ambassadors” in California and the mental health response unit of the Anti-Police Terror Project in Oakland
- Support groups like Red Canary Song, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, 18 Million Rising, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and Butterfly Network
- Center calls for safety that do not result in more resources for police, like this open letter from the Asian American Feminist Collective
*The names we know so far: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng, Hyeon Jeong Park, Julie Park. Rest in Peace.