How Teens Can Use Their Voices in Support of the AAPI Community

The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has had to face an onslaught of dangerous rhetoric regarding the COVID-19 pandemic — and words have consequences. In 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by a staggering 149%, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University.

This pandemic-fueled increase in violence has affected young Asian American, as well. The teen-led Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign interviewed nearly 1,000 Asian American teens, and found that 1 in 4 had been a target of racist hate in the past year. Teens reported being targets of cyberbullying, taunted with racist slurs, and even followed and attacked in public.

But it’s important that teens know their civic action counts. In response to this surge in xenophobia and violence against AAPI people brought by the pandemic, teenagers across the country have become young activists, organizing to advocate on behalf of the AAPI community on issues from ending racially motivated violence, to expanding healthcare equity, to leadership representation.

Check out some of the ways in which teens have used their voices to empower the cause against anti-Asian hate:

  • A group of seventh graders organized a rally that drew 1,200 people to a park in West Berkeley, CA. “It was extremely gratifying to see all the people that turned out,” said 12-year-old organizer Mina Fedor. “I wanted to organize this to raise youth voices…to say it’s okay to speak up, and that you should be able to do that without fear.”
  • In Manhasset, NY, two teens organized a large protest. “We want change,” 16-year-old co-organizer Ava Shu told the crowd. “I don’t want anyone to have the fear of walking on the street knowing they could be attacked at any moment. I don’t want to see little kids be robbed of their innocence.”
  • A high school senior in Mountain View, CA organized a protest that marched to City Hall, where young people addressed elected officials directly.

The current moment is an opportune time to talk to your teen about Anti-Asian violence and racism, and support your teen if they show interest in taking action – here are some tips to get you started:

  • Educate yourself and your teen. Given that the majority of Asian American history is not taught in most schools across the country, take some time with your teen to learn about the AAPI experience by reading and discussing articles and books, watching movies and documentaries, and listening to podcasts. Start a conversation about racism with your teen. Check out these eight key tips about starting the a conversation, which will help you access a better understanding of what your teen already knows about the issue, how they feel, and how to move forward.
  • Consider taking an online training program with your teen to become a better AAPI ally. Organizations like Hollaback! and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project provide free resources on what to do if you see someone from the AAPI community experiencing harassment.
  • Encourage your teen to be politically active. Whether through organizing a local rally, similar to the teen-led examples above, or contacting their local elected official as a concerned member of the community, support your teens’ willingness to take civic action.
  • Follow and amplify the stories and voices of the AAPI community online. Many teens take to social media to advocate on behalf of causes they’re passionate about, and that’s no different when it comes to the issue of hate against the AAPI community. In the past year, much social media advocacy has centered around the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #StopAsianHateCrimes. Explore these hashtags, encourage your teen to follow AAPI voices, and to contribute their own messages of support as appropriate.

By openly sharing your own thoughts and feelings about racism and xenophobia targeting the AAPI community, you have the opportunity to help your teen learn how to respond now and in the future. Discuss how you, yourself, are planning to help advocate for change, but also be honest about when you feel unsure or discouraged. When you are transparent about how you feel and what actions you want to take, your teen will feel more encouraged to use their voice and their actions to make a difference.

Most importantly, acknowledge that the conversation is ongoing. Encourage your teen to come to you if questions arise and urge them to engage in conversations with others as well. With your support, you can empower your teen to make a difference. Start a conversation that leads to action today.

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