As COVID-19 Cases Surge, Nonprofit Organizations Launch Local Bystander Intervention Trainings to Combat Anti-Asian Harassment

Megan Singson

CHICAGO — November 19, 2020 — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, the Asian American community is bracing itself for more racist harassment and attacks. For months, the Trump administration and other politicians have consistently blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic and used xenophobic terms like “Chinese virus” that spread stigma and fear and perpetuate centuries of racist stereotypes. As a result, there have been numerous reports of anti-Asian verbal and physical attacks, with Illinois being the fourth ranked state with the highest number of reported incidents. To combat this dangerous trend, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, the Council On American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago, and Hollaback! have launched a virtual bystander intervention training program in the Chicagoland area. In each one-hour virtual training, participants will learn about the history of anti-Asian racism, how to identify situations of harassment, and how to intervene safely.

“Racist rhetoric is often the first of an escalation of hateful actions committed against vulnerable communities,” said Sufyan Sohel, Deputy Director of CAIR-Chicago. “We have seen this time and time again, including the Muslim Ban which began as rhetoric during the 2016 Presidential campaign and culminated not only with the Executive Order, but spikes in hate incidents and speech we have seen nationwide. This isn’t an Asian problem, a Muslim problem, or even an immigrant problem. It is a problem that requires our collective energy to address and we are proud to work alongside our incredible partners to bring a much needed resource to our communities.”

Anti-Asian racism is only one aspect of the larger pool of issues in our country’s racial landscape. According to the Department of Homeland Security, white supremacist extremists are the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland” with the deadliest targeted terror attacks in the U.S in recent years. The FBI also reported that there were 7,314 criminal hate-crime incidents in 2019, the highest number of hate crimes in over a decade.

“We’ve seen how white supremacy has been given a platform on the national stage, and these groups have been emboldened to attack communities of color,” said Andy Kang, Executive Director of Advancing Justice | Chicago. “We saw it in Charlottesville, Portland, and here in the Midwest in Kenosha. We know that our communities are stronger together, and we’re taking steps to help equip Illinoisans with the tools to help show up for one another. These trainings are a way for all communities of color and allies to come together, protect each other, and take action now against white supremacy, racism, and hate of all kinds.”

Advancing Justice | Chicago, CAIR-Chicago, and Hollaback! invite people of all backgrounds to participate in a bystander intervention training and learn how to take action against hate and racism. For more information, visit People who have witnessed or experienced a hate incident can also report them to


Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago has a mission to build power through collective advocacy and organizing to achieve racial equity.

CAIR-Chicago is the Chicago Chapter of America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization with a mission to defend civil rights, fight bigotry, and promote tolerance. 

Hollaback! has a mission to end harassment in all its forms by transforming the culture that perpetuates harassment and discrimination. We carry out this mission by building the power of everyday people to create safe and welcoming environments for all.