Last month’s incident involving a 20-year resident of Logan Square intentionally driving his truck into picnickers on the boulevard, reportedly yelling racial slurs, was a disturbing reminder that racism and hate can penetrate any community. And while Congress overwhelmingly supported signing the COVID-19 Hate Crime bill from President Biden in late May, which will help expedite the review of pandemic-related hate crimes against the Asian community, it does little to help in preventing such crimes from happening in the first place or making neighbors feel safe this summer.
So how can Logan Square residents be better allies to the Asian American community and safely intervene if they witness hateful interactions in the future?
May was Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, celebrating the multigenerational contributions of the AAPI community in U.S. history — a history that recognizes oppression, resistance, and above all else, the resilience of a community that embodies the American promise. Asia includes more countries, languages, and nationalities than any other continent, which further underpins the complexity and varied experiences generations of Asian Americans have experienced in the United States throughout our country’s history and still today. To help people learn more about the AAPI experience, increased resources were made available at all major U.S. Museums and institutes in Chicago and the U.S. National History Museum – The Smithsonian’ Asian Pacific American Center, which hosts resources online and in-person through thought-provoking conversations highlighting Asian American stories that are rarely found in public libraries or taught in school textbooks.
With a lot of museums just reopening, many exhibits have been extended beyond May, such as the Art Institute of Chicago exhibit “Modernity, and Nostalgia: The Prints of Itō Shinsui” and the American Writers Museum exhibit “My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.” Plus, there are a plethora of museums in Chicago that feature resources on Asians and Asian Americans year-round, such as The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Chinese American Museum of Chicago.
See museum websites for COVID and ticketing guidelines, reservations and opening hours in advance.
Learn How To Safely Intervene And Report Hate-Related Encounters
I feel extremely fortunate and grateful to call a diverse group of women, including first- and secind-generation Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese American women, my friends. They have shared many of their struggles as Asian Americans in the U.S. and abroad.
Before I moved to Chicago, my roommate Grace, a first-generation Chinese Californian studying for her Ph.D. in genetics in London, would regularly come home late from class and tell me how random people would shout, “Hey, China doll, ching-chang-chong,” making obnoxious noises at her from across the street. At the time, I recall being shocked that such interactions happened in London, a city I considered even more diverse than places in the U.S. like New York. However, as the years have gone on and my friend groups have continued to become more diverse, I have witnessed my Asian American friends being subjected to this behavior on multiple occasions and in multiple places.
Heckled and sexually harassed walking down the street, enduring blatant staring throughout meals, and being forced to deflect inappropriate and unprompted questions, like, “Where are you from!?” from grown adults. I have witnessed it in Chicago, while visiting friends in New York and when in Colorado for skiing. And it has been much at play in foreign countries I’ve visited, too, including those in Asia. I admit, in the past, I have been a quiet bystander in these situations and guilty of perhaps even minimizing the experience by trying to change the subject. That said, I have sought guidance and training on what to do and say to be a better ally and friend, how to take power away from these aggressors, and how to safely intervene for a stranger without making a situation worse.
Luckily, bystander intervention training for opposing anti-Asian hate and xenophobia exists. Cat Shieh, the anti-hate training coordinator at Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago, in collaboration with Council on American/Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago and Hollaback, was inspired to create interactive training for bystanders after being personally attacked in an anti-Asian hate crime. The program is funded by donations across the organizations, as well as Dough Something, an initiative set up by Beverly Kim, chef, and owner of Avondale’s Michelin-starred restaurant Parachute (3500 N. Elston Ave.). Various restaurants in Chicago support that initiative, as does WBEZ’s cohost of “Chewing,” Monica Eng, and restaurants across the U.S.
My biggest takeaway from bystander intervention training was that 79% of victims who experienced a hate crime wished that someone had helped them. However, in only 25% of these incidents did someone intervenes (source: AAJC). This is a stat that perhaps many of us can relate to, from a bullying situation in our lives when we wished someone had stood up for us and called out an aggressor. I realized that such actions would have made a huge difference. Not only does intervention at the moment prevent incidents from escalating, but it also has tremendous benefits for the victim’s self-esteem, self-worth, and longer-term mental health and recovery from the incident.
To reap the full benefits of the training, you will have to sign up for training yourself by emailing [email protected]. The training is about 60-90 minutes and highly interactive, and it includes participants from across the globe (there were 500 people registered for the session I took). It’s structured with an easy-to-remember toolkit to empower the broader community to stand up for one another.
As a follow-up to bystander intervention training, AAAJ also offers a Bystander Intervention 2.0, conflict de-escalation workshop, along with workshops for Asian Americans on how to respond to anti-Asian American harassment if they experience it personally.
Report Incidents To Appropriate Groups
Report hate incidents to StandAgainstHatred.org or the Illinois attorney general’s civil rights hotline at 1-877-581-3692
During an ABC-sponsored female panel called “Bridging Generations” honoring AAPI Heritage Month, NYU associate professor doctor Doris Chang said that 25% of attacks that have been reported are perpetrated by someone who is undergoing a type of mental break in the form of mental illness or a disordered mind. She explained that this statistic illustrates the complexity of the current world and the importance of intervening in a manner that prioritizes your safety and ideally is reported to a group that can provide better assistance to the situation. That could mean a mental illness health professional versus the police. One resource in Chicago to call for advice (versus an incident that requires emergency care) is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 312-563-0445
Join Or Start A Community Safety Group
As they say, there is safety in numbers. As a result of recent crimes against Asian American elders, many cities have created safety walks in communities. You can check in with your Asian American friends, start a “text when you’re home” trend, and find opportunities in your community to create group activities like running or bicycling. Min Wang, a Logan Square resident, created a cycling club for beginners after co-founding Stop Asian Hate Chicago.
Understand Microaggressions, Reflect and Change
It is likely that everyone in the U.S. has witnessed or taken part in explicit racism, racist commentary, racist jokes or xenophobic behavior directed toward individuals of Asian descent or has personally contributed to microaggressions as a result of implicit bias. While conversations on these realities are overdue in the U.S., it is critical to reflect on the seemingly harmless and passive ways people in the U.S. continue to “other” Asian Americans in this country and damage the psyche of these individuals.
Ultimately, these actions reinforce the treatment of multigenerational Asian Americans as perpetual immigrants and perpetuate the “bamboo ceiling” effect in corporate leadership, among other harmful outcomes. ABC 7 Chicago shared a reel featuring the channel’s Asian American Pacific Islander staff, who shared some of the microaggressions they’d experienced since childhood that affected their lives and still burn in their memories today.
While many people may feel they mean well when they make such comments, they may not realize the demeaning effect. A few common microaggressions Asian Americans experience also highlighted in the ABC7 Chicago piece include:
“Can you open your eyes?” (when taking a photo).
“Oh, you speak English well!”
“You’re good at math, right?”
Support Asian-Owned Businesses
The spike in hate and fear related to the pandemic and media coverage of hate crimes disproportionately affects Asian- and Asian American-owned businesses. Chicago is blessed with a diverse population of Asian American communities, chefs and cuisine influenced by multiple Asian communities. Hence, one of the best things you can to do support the Asian American community in this city is to have a meal at an Asian-owned restaurant or support a local Asian-owned business. To immerse yourself in a truly international experience, head to Chicago’s Chinatown or Devon Avenue, with its wealth of Indian and Pakistani shops and restaurants.
Right here in Logan Square, there are also a handful of Asian-owned businesses you can support (this list is not exhaustive):
Ramen Wasabi (2101 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
KFire (2528 N. Milwaukee Ave.): Opened last July 2020, KFire is a fast-casual Korean BBQ restaurant owned by Korean American business partners Ben Kim and Eddie Huang.
Trike (2539 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
Gorilla Sushi Bar (2735 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
Sakura (2507 W. Fullerton Ave.).
Ruby’s Cleaners (3145 W. Logan Blvd.).
March In Solidarity To Stand Against Anti-Asian Hatred
Following the mass shooting in Atlanta that killed six Asian Americans, marches broke out across the country, including a gathering of hundreds around the Logan Square monument. Many organizations and Asian American celebrities, politicians, and community organizers were mobilized.
As a follow-up action shared during a conversation sponsored by The Smithsonian, “We Are American and We Stand Together: Asian American Resilience and Belonging,” with representatives from Gold House, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, AAJC said they hoped to organize a march to mark the 39th anniversary of the racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin. With this march, organizers hope to remind the country that, 40 years later, no one should pay the price for someone else’s hate and to ensure that all Americans feel safe in this country. Although the march hasn’t been fully publicized, the group planned on it being held in DC this summer.
Donate To Local Chicago Organizations
The Infatuation Chicago has created a great list of Chicago organizations to support:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s bystander intervention training will help participants stay safe and take action if they witness hate crimes.
- The Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce supports and promotes businesses in Chinatown.
- Parachute has launched a pizza popup called Korini’s Pizza on Wednesdays. One dollar from each pizza goes toward Dough Something.
Featured photo: Three picnickers enjoy Logan Boulevard Memorial Day weekend. Photo: Michael Dhar