In a recent survey, AAPI Data found that 1 in 4 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced a hate crime at some point in their life. Meanwhile, 51.9% of AAPI respondents to NAPAWF’s national survey reported experiencing anti-AAPI racism, including harassment and discrimination, in the past year. These statistics represent millions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
In 2020 alone, rates of hate incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rose above the national average as misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic stoked racial tensions and encouraged offenders to act on their racist beliefs. Of the 4,193 hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate in 2020, women were targeted in 64.8% of cases.
It was this startling reality of how racism has made so many AAPI people afraid to leave their homes that spurred a Mount Sinai medical student and an eighth-grader to cofound Soar Over Hate, an organization that distributes self-defense equipment and safety information to AAPI women, seniors, and LGBTQ+ folks across New York City.
Soar Over Hate’s Story
Michelle Tran, a student at Mount Sinai’s School of Medicine met Tiffany Yuen, her eighth-grade mentee at Apex for Youth. As more and more incidents of racist attacks appeared in the news, the two students decided they had to do something.
When they launched Soar Over Hate at the beginning of April this year, neither had much prior experience in organizing an outreach effort of this scale. Even so, they were determined to help folks in their community feel safer. What they found soon after launching Soar Over Hate was that they were not alone.
“Along the way, I met a lot of volunteers who were willing to help,” Michelle Tran mentions in our interview. “I met friends who gave me advice and partners, like Kenji Jones, who all have a lot of drive and motivation to help.”
With support from friends, volunteers, and community partners, Soar Over Hate has grown far beyond what the cofounders originally anticipated.
“Our fundraising goal initially was $2,000,” Tran noted, “but by the next day, we had raised over $5,000 and since then, we have raised over $60,000 from corporate donors, friends, and family.”
Because of these donations, Soar Over Hate has been able to hand out over 13,000 self-defense devices including safety alarms and pepper spray to AAPI folks across the city. They have also provided self-defense training and distributed pamphlets with information on how to respond to and report an attack.
In addition to going door-to-door to distribute self-defense equipment, Soar Over Hate also coordinated with other local organizations to host a community event in Chinatown earlier this month.
At that event, volunteers from various organizations came together to distribute over 5,000 self-defense devices and provide self-defense training, health screenings, voter registration, free legal counseling for immigrants, and puppy therapy to the more than 2,000 attendees.
“Everyone just wanted to support one another, and it was a really happy day,” Tran reflected.
While this and other distribution efforts have largely focused on Manhattan’s Chinatown, she hopes to coordinate similar events and more distributions of safety equipment and information to all the AAPI communities across the five boroughs.
“I think walking on the street and feeling comfortable in one’s own skin is a human right,” Tran explained. “That’s what this project is really about.”
Tran is determined to continue expanding Soar Over Hate’s reach until the kind of hate that has deprived so many AAPI people of that right is gone.
What Can You Do?
We at A Little Bit Human have partnered with Soar Over Hate to help raise more money for the organization. Right now, when you buy a t-shirt, mug, or tote—featuring designs from 15-year-old New York-based artist Kayla Lee—from our special Soar Over Hate collection, 100% of the proceeds go directly to Michelle Tran and Tiffany Yuen to fund additional safety alarms, pepper spray, and other supplies to keep AAPI New Yorkers safe on our streets.
You can also donate directly to Soar Over Hate via their GoFundMe page and connect with them on Instagram under the handle @SoarOverHate to get updates on their latest actions, help spread their message, encourage more donations, and make sure those who need help know this service is out there.
If you can’t afford to give money or you’d like to do more than donate, Soar Over Hate also needs volunteers to help distribute self-defense equipment in AAPI communities across New York City. You can sign up to volunteer for their next distribution.
Michelle Tran also has a ton of great suggestions for how to support the AAPI community in general:
Volunteer for Patrol Walks
One of the many groups Soar Over Hate has partnered with is Protect Chinatown, another grassroots organization formed in response to the rise of anti-AAPI hate. Protect Chinatown hosts regular community patrol walks and runs an all-volunteer chaperoning service.
When you apply to become a chaperone, you’ll accompany AAPI community members to their destination, ensuring they feel safe and can walk the streets with confidence.
Become an Upstander
Where a bystander stands by and witnesses, an upstander speaks up or intervenes. Figuring out what to do in the moment if you witness an anti-AAPI hate incident (or any other kind of harassment or discrimination, for that matter) can be intimidating, though.
Michelle Tran recommended reading through IHollaBack’s guidelines on bystander intervention or even signing up for one of their free online training sessions to learn how to safely intervene and support anybody being targeted by harassment, both online and in person.
Be Supportive of the AAPI Folks in Your Life
Beyond activism and volunteering, you can also help by just being a kind and compassionate source of support for the AAPI folks in your life.
“Ask them how they’re feeling,” Michelle Tran suggested. “Allyship is about listening to one another, supporting each other in times of need, and just generally caring.”
Listen to your AAPI friends, coworkers, and neighbors when they talk about how racism impacts their lives or how recent events, like the Atlanta spa killings, have affected them. In this time of heightened tensions and violence, showing kindness can go a long way toward helping the AAPI folks in your community feel safer.