Politicians and activists slammed discrimination against Asian Americans at a vigil in New York City for the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings.
Staff video, USA TODAY
In response to the rising number of reports of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community nationally, Travis County District Attorney José Garza says his office is committed to fighting the troubling trend locally.
Efforts to fight racism against the AAPI community, however, must look beyond what can be done through police and courts, Garza said.
“It is a mistake to think that we can arrest and prosecute our way out of every challenge our community faces,” Garza said.
Garza, who spoke Saturday during a virtual event on anti-Asian hate crimes, said elected officials and other city leaders should invest more money and resources to organizations in the area who work to address hate-related incidents, including verbal harassment as well as physical attacks.
The event was hosted by Asian Democrats Central Texas and the Travis County Democratic Party.
He said leaders in the city also need to rebuild trust within communities of color, so that people are more open to reporting crimes and working with police and the legal system.
“There are so many members of our communities of color and from immigrant communities who have, from my perspective rightfully, lost trust in law enforcement,” Garza said. “And that means that we have a tall task ahead of us to begin to slowly rebuild the trust because that will make all of us more safe. When communities feel like they can’t report crimes, that they can’t participate in investigations, that makes all of us less safe.”
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Stop AAPI Hate, an online hate-related incident reporting system that was started by nonprofits and college professors on the West coast, has received almost 3,800 reports of incidents against people who are of Asian descent between March 2020 and February 2021.
Texas was fourth on the list of states with the largest number of reported incidents with 103, behind California (1,691), New York (517) and Washington (158).
Margaret Chen Kercher, an Austin-based lawyer who spoke during the virtual event, said she would like to see a similar reporting system in Travis County.
“One of the reasons StopAAPI.org is so successful in getting so many reported incidents is because it’s a community-based; it is not law enforcement, so people feel comfortable making these reports,” Kercher said.
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Zahra Shakur Jamal, director of prevention and education at the Asian Family Support Services of Austin, said outreach and stronger efforts to report incidents will be a good early step toward fighting anti-Asian hate locally.
Shakur Jamal, who was a guest speaker at the event, added that city leaders and organizations need to work together to ensure that outreach can effectively reach the local AAPI community.
“When we’re doing that outreach, we have to be ready on the back end to have language access, to have meaningful access and to understand the cultural barriers that someone is facing,” Shakur Jamal said.