By Elina Lingappa
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, in an NPR interview over the weekend, reaffirmed his office condemns “acts of violence and hate” toward the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and San Francisco.
Boudin pointedly said the rampant xenophobia was encouraged by former President Donald Trump.
“We are doing everything in our power to make sure that everyone is and feels safe in our communities,” Boudin said to NPR reporter, Michel Martin.
Boudin admitted that they are difficult, as they are crimes “additionally motivated by the identity of the victim,” and therefore require evidence of intent in the prosecution.
Hard evidence of racially motivated behavior, such as use of slurs or a history of racist behavior, can be hard to come by, he said, noting that authorities also often do not explicitly look for evidence to support a hate crime conviction.
Boudin said he is not hindered from prosecuting the cases to the best of his ability, and that the District Attorney’s office will proceed with prosecution of the underlying crime, even if the additional hateful intent cannot be proven.
However, Boudin stated winning conviction for underlying crimes is often not adequate, as “it’s not always enough to make a community in fear and pain feel heard.”
Hate crime convictions often aid in making communities feel heard, he said, noting that even the concept of enhanced sentences for hate crimes may not be attacking the root causes of the problem, Boudin elaborated.
“We know that prisons are not places that really address racial bias. In fact, they exacerbate it” he explained to listeners, once again calling on non-carceral forms of accountability to solve systemic problems.
This is not a surprising sentiment from District Attorney Boudin, as he has long championed the practices of restorative justice.
However, Boudin is not alone in this call for rethinking accountability in the face of AAPI hate crimes.
AAPI activists nationwide have been calling for an approach which targets the roots of racism and white supremacy.
“We must invest in long-term solutions that address the root causes of violence and hate in our communities” read a statement released by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta in response to the recent racially-motivated spa shootings in Atlanta, “We reject increased police presence of carceral solutions as the answer.”
Of course, carceral and police alternatives are not a universal preference. Many members of AAPI communities, particularly older community members, hope for increased police presence.
Reconciling these contrasting views in the face of the increasing presence of anti-AAPI sentiment remains a massive challenge for activists, community members, and politicians.
Boudin and his office have made it clear that these contrasting views and challenges are at the forefront of his agenda for change in San Francisco, but also nationwide.
Elina Lingappa is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco double majoring in Sociology and Politics. She is originally from Seattle, Washington, and she is deeply passionate about the spheres of criminal justice and education equity.
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