Hearing, Mapping, and Contextualizing: How South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and South West Asian (SAMSSWA) Hate Violence Survivors Perceive Healing and Justice
Why a new approach to addressing hate violence?
Since our formation in 2001, SAALT has historically approached our work around ending hate violence as a policy- and documentation-driven institution, meaning that our efforts have been focused on collecting data on hate violence impacting our community and advocating for federal hate crime legislation to recognize and prosecute perpetrators of individual incidents. After two decades we face the reality that hate violence against communities of color has not decreased. And, that is because the root causes of this violence are tied to the very policies of the government from which we kept seeking recourse. As a result, we find it urgent and imperative to engage in a more direct, survivor-centered way that is not just short-term reform, but healing and transformative over the long-term.
We are living in a watershed moment, with great potential for both hope and harm. Hate violence has surged in America—from police brutality against Black Americans to the attacks targeting East Asian Americans and those racialized as East Asian. Fighting hate violence is vital—now more than ever—and the South Asian community must build coalitions with other communities of color.
Our new approach to hate violence, launched in 2022, is to enable the participation and leadership of hate violence survivors by thinking outside conventional paradigms of healing and justice, often tied to policy and law enforcement. Instead, we will offer transformative justice (TJ) as a modality of healing. We must be committed to honoring and uplifting the interrelated praxes of abolition and transformative justice in Black and Indigenous communities as well as the leadership of BIPOC folks, many of whom identify as LGBTQI+, in shaping abolition and transformative justice over the centuries, including those at Project NIA, INCITE!, Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, GenerationFIVE, Creative Interventions, Interrupting Criminalization, and Survived & Punished.
Such praxes and leadership arise from America’s very founding being premised upon—and defined by—hate violence. The creation and perpetuation of American systems and institutions were predicated both on the displacement and genocide of Indigenous people and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Such systemic violence rooted in hatred thus formed the basis and roots of carceral ideology, with racist xenophobia serving as the primary sentiment. Transformative justice, with roots in ending child sexual abuse, asks, as Mia Mingus writes: “What kinds of community infrastructure can we create to support more safety, transparency, sustainability, care and connection?” and “What do survivors need?” We aspire to discuss transformative justice with survivors and then go to the next level by actively visualizing a TJ-led community, with the virtual hangouts over food, workshops, interviews, and an in-person healing session serving as safe and powerful alternative outlets of healing, expression, and needs.
We will select 15 survivors affected by interpersonal and structural hate crimes—including but not limited to ones driven by racism, Islamophobia, casteism, colorism, gender, sexuality, immigration status, physical and mental ability, and a history of carcerality—both at the hands of unknown attackers (e.g., gendered Islamophobia, harassment and violence in public spaces, vandalism and property destruction, and doxing and other forms of digital violence) and at the hands of known attackers (e.g., gender-based and domestic violence, child abuse, and institutional discrimination in workplaces, health and education settings).
We are organizing discussions with our National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO) partners and other South Asian organizations and individuals who directly work with survivors and learning from their work, asking them to collaborate on the project as workshop facilitators, and identifying survivors in their networks who would be eager and inspired to partake in this project. By connecting and engaging in a reciprocal relationship with these organizations, we hope to build with and unify the NCSO and our larger community—another one of our project goals, as exhibited by the workshop facilitators we will invite.
This project will have six moving parts from September 2022 to August/September/October 2023 in the following order:
- (1) an initial pre-interview between the Healing & Justice Researcher and the survivors, 1:1, on forming relationships, likes and dislikes, etc., to establish a relationship filled with trust, mutual dignity, reciprocity, agency, and familiarity
- (2) an online demographic questionnaire that will allow our researcher to create small groups during the in-person healing session based on answer and identity alignment and to disaggregate the data
- (3) six virtual hangouts for the 15 survivors to bond over food, to preemptively set up the survivor network that will sustain this project. The last virtual hangout in August/September/October 2023 will serve as a reflection session on the project and its process.
- (4) back-and-forth between 13 workshops and (5) 10 1:1 semi-structured interviews with our researcher. These workshops, which will also help build coalitions by including speakers from within and beyond the NCSO (e.g., Sikh Coalition, Jenny Bhatt, Survived & Punished), will provide the background information necessary to developing survivors’ informed perspectives on hate crime legislation, restorative and transformative justice, police reform, etc.
- Two of these workshops—one, on what is healing and two, on what is justice—will be survivor-led.
- Detailed, safe, and innovative interviews will help identify perspectives on the police, hate crime legislation, and alternatives to the police such as transformative and healing justice. They will explore access to healing pathways, such as positive and maladaptive coping skills, community support, mental and physical health services. Survivors will offer their perspectives on justice, such as police involvement in their cases, access to restitution structures such as restorative justice circles and victim-compensation funds, and definitions of fairness, safety, and accountability. They will express their thoughts and needs on related issues such as gun control, educational reform, food justice, and economic security.
- Our Healing and Justice Researcher wrote the survey and interview questionnaires and consulted 50 scholars, organizations, and healing practitioners (e.g., Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, South Asian Sexual and Mental Health Alliance, and Puni Kalra, founder of the Sikh Healing Collective following the Oak Creek shooting) both inside and beyond the NCSO in the process for feedback. An excerpt of the questionnaires can be found here.
- (6) We will hold an in-person weekend session in July 2023 to maximize healing. Survivors will spend the first day engaging in activities offered by our Somatics Consultant; create something of their choice (e.g., a meal, song, dance, garden, clothing); and close the day with activities offered by our Healing Justice Consultant. The second day, survivors will engage in activities offered by our Somatics Consultant and a storytelling circle facilitated by our Restorative Justice Facilitator as well as map out a future world (What does it consist of? What makes it safe, fair, and just?) with the help of our Transformative Justice Facilitator.
We will harness the power of speaking and listening. Greater information, freer participation and informed analysis, particularly in relation to anti-Black racism in the US, will help us develop a shared language for change together with our NCSO and beyond. We will present our findings from the surveys and interviews, and make recommendations for community-based advocacy organizations, mental health and legal professionals, TJ practitioners, and government officials through a public, interactive website with multiple purposes—a toolkit, memoir, report, document, and historiography.
We will also be offering the following services and compensations: (1) an information and informed consent form emphasizing consent (i.e., voluntary and selective participation), confidentiality, anonymity, and full veto power over written content; (2) $2,500 compensation to each survivor as an expression of our gratitude for their time, commitment, and fullest selves; (3) individual and group coaching sessions with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist; (4) localized resource sheets (e.g., contacts to faith-based leaders); (5) somatic and healing justice activities; (6) translation and interpretation support; (7) a reflection circle and survey on the process at the last virtual hangout; and (8) a survivor-led network outliving and outlasting the project.
This project has numerous implications. Following the scholarly interest in and debate over the efficacy of Brazil and India’s all-women police stations in addressing gender-based violence and listening to survivors, our insights might well be extrapolated to the criminal justice systems of other nations and inspire global models.
Hate violence takes too many lives every day. We recognize the urgency of a response, and this project, with its democratic ways of storytelling centered on a just transition, or “a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy”—is our contribution.
This project will contribute to the transformation of justice for individuals and communities. It will expand the notion of justice from simply one survivor going to the government for help, to one where an entire society is deeply aware of structural violence and injustice, and open to forming new and more equitable methodologies and institutions.
This multilayered project will involve a reciprocal relationship with participants, in which we will uncover our deepest, truest selves. We will share our stories—the way in which we are storied, unstoried and restoried. We will dream of radically new worlds. And through this individual and collective work, we will develop a roadmap for radical healing and justice.
Ways to get involved
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