HomeAsian AmericansCartoons help to tackle anti-AAPI harassment

Cartoons help to tackle anti-AAPI harassment

By Lia Reichmann, AsAmNews Intern


A new approach to educating people about different bystander intervention methods will utilize animation. These videos come from the partnership between Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Right To Be (formerly Hollaback!) and AARP.

Right To Be created the techniques shown in the animated videos, including the “5Ds of Bystander Intervention,” which will provide people with different ways to help someone being harassed. The five Ds include “Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay and Direct.” 

Members of the AAPI community came together to help produce the animated videos. Richard Lui, an NBC News/MSNBC anchor, volunteered to direct the animated series, representing the Asian American Journalists Association. Animator Davy Liu (known for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Mulan) led a team of three animators, and Zev Burrows, an award-winning composer, wrote the original score for the series. 

The videos are available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Hindi, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, English and Spanish.

“We really felt that, while we still want people to come to our hour-long training–we think it’s a really useful and impactful training–we recognize that that’s not going to be for everyone. So we thought the animated videos would be a great way to reach broader audiences in a more accessible way,” Marita Etcubañez, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at AAJC, said.

Joan Eisenstodt works in the hospitality industry and attended one of the trainings because she was “intrigued” and wanted to get better at intervention. Working in her industry she said there has been a push towards supporting fellow AAPI colleagues via programs and awareness of anti-Asian hate.

Eisenstodt said that the videos and scenarios presented in the training allowed her to question what she would do. 

“It’s easier to say what we’d do [versus] do something,” Eisenstodt said. “Being more aware, facing issues in a safe setting where we could react and learn made me more aware.”

Initially started as the Three Ds of bystander intervention in 2012, after working with bystander program Green Dot, the methods were expanded in 2015 and 2017 with Delay and Document.

Etcubañez said at the beginning of the pandemic Right To Be reached out to AAJC, in response to the anti-Asian hate at the time, to see if they would be interested in adapting their bystander intervention training. According to the AAJC the FBI reported a 76% increase in hate crime incidents motivated by anti-Asian bias in 2020, compared to 2019. 

AAJC had heard “great things” about their training so working together they adapted the training, adding content and context about anti-Asian American history. They also used information they had gathered from their website standagainsthatred.org, that “captures reports from community members about hate crimes.”

After testing the adapted training on different community organizations, AAJC launched their first bystander intervention training in partnership with Right To Be in April of 2020. Etcubanez said after drawing more than 1000 people in the first two sessions, “we clearly were meeting a need.” 

“The demand for this training really just became overwhelming in the spring of 2021,” Etcubañez said. “With the shootings at the three Asians spas in Atlanta, I think people really felt the need to learn about what they could do to intervene, if they saw or experienced harassment.” 

To date, Etcubañez said they have reached over 100,000 people since April of 2020. 

Eisenstodt said after going to college at a small Midwest school, she was shocked to learn people had not met others different from themselves, like she had through her parents. 

“Everything for me circles back to education. In the US now, we are aware that many people and [many] legislatures are working hard to stop people from learning about people unlike them – and “unlike them” are generally BIPOC individuals and communities,” Eisenstodt said.

“If people know no one but those who are like them, if there isn’t an opportunity to explore differences and similarities, explore the richness of cultures, then we lose, and fear and hate instead flourish. We can prevent and stop anti-AAPI hate by helping people learn and know others. That also means that people need to be aware of laws or policies from school boards and how they can speak to what is a smarter way to create a more accepting or even tolerant society.”

According to the AAJC, new data shows that 76% of people that witnessed harassment after attending Right To Be’s training, reported then being able to actually intervene. Etcubañez added Right To Be found in surveys that “99% of people” who responded reported that because of the training they felt “they are better able to recognize harassment and intervene when they see it happening.” 

“It’s easier to say one will be part of the resistance, to speak up, to physically intervene than it is to do so. I was able to understand why [though] I am direct, it may not always be the appropriate response,” Eisenstodt said. “I continue, since the training, to test myself by rethinking how best to respond to a situation or words or a social media post, to think about whether ‘so direct’ as I tend to be might not accomplish what is best for all and in this case, to help call awareness of others to anti-Asian hate.”

The bystander intervention training is part of a training series that includes conflict de-escalation and one that is focused on the Asian American community and how to respond to harassment directed at you. as well as resilience practices. 

The different trainings are offered on a monthly basis, as a free hour-long online workshop. In order to make them more accessible, the bystander intervention training is simultaneously interpreted into multiple Asian languages. 

Eisenstodt said that due to growing up in the 1950’s and having a father who served in World War II, she has seen the use of racial slurs towards Japanese Americans. 

“There are still generations who fought in WWII and in Vietnam and in Korea who fear Asian people and thus use slurs and justifications about ill-treatment, so it’s a vicious cycle,” Eisenstodt said. “It’s why the training is so critical – for awareness and to allow people to confront their own biases and fears and to determine how to act. I can’t influence the entire world. Hospitality [though] is a huge part of the US and world economy. If I can, as I work and volunteer, and call attention to the issues, so can others.”

Etcubañez said they are working on developing more resources and tools to help a “wider audience get access to this information.” They are looking at different ways to help train kids, and have partnered with the Woori Show, a Korean educational TV and online series, to do so.

Two leaders from Right To Be also released a book called I’ve Got Your Back: The Indispensable Guide to Stopping Harassment When You See It that offers a deeper dive.

“To be honest, when we launched this partnership with Right To Be, I don’t think any of us thought that we would still be doing this, two years on, but the need is still there. I think we want to make sure that everyone who is interested in the training will be able to access it,” Etcubañez said. “So we’ll continue to offer the free public trainings online. At some point [we] may try to find a way to offer more in-person trainings, offer more tools and resources, including materials in different languages.”

As for the future Etcubañez said;

“We will be there as long as there is demand and we’ll be working to create more tools.” 

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