The Asian American Bar Association (AABA) of Greater Chicago congratulates AABA Board Member Sonni Choi Williams on her recent election as the next Third Vice President of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA). Once sworn in, Sonni will be the first female lawyer of color, first Asian American, and first Korean American elected to this position. AABA commends Sonni for her long history of leadership and dedication to the Asian American community and the legal community. We look forward in anticipation to the future of the ISBA and the Illinois legal community under Sonni's leadership.
Chicago, IL – Soon Chung Park. Hyun Jung Grant (Kim). Suncha Kim. Yong Ae Yue. Xiaojie Tan. Daoyou Feng. Delaina Ashley Yaun. Paul Andre Michels. We mourn their loss and mourn with their families and friends. Read some of their stories here:
In response to the Atlanta Spa shootings and to the surge of hate and xenophobia directed towards Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) in the past year, AABA Chicago joins others across the Chicagoland area and the nation to denounce these acts of hate. For the past year, AABA has communicated with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, in partnership with our sister Asian bar associations in the Chicago area, to advocate for the APA community and report on acts of hate directed against APA groups and individuals. Like many, we had hoped that the violence against APAs stoked by former President Trump and others formerly in power would subside with President Biden and Vice President Harris in the White House. Instead, we recognize that both white supremacy and misogyny are entrenched in American institutions and the collective consciousness, continuing to produce hate-fueled violence targeting communities of color and women. AABA Chicago is committed to continuing to advocate for the APA community, as well as working in solidarity with our BIPOC, female, LGBTQ+, immigrant and other marginalized members of our country.
Now, we breathe and turn to the murders of six Asian American women. Their deaths have struck us and the broader Asian American community deeply. Our trauma is real. These women are us. They are our moms, daughters, and sisters.
We live in a country that has a long history of exotifying, fetishizing, and objectifying APA women. APA women have often been portrayed as submissive and compliant “china dolls” or shrewd and lustful “dragon ladies.” While these images may seem contradictory, they both serve as projections of white male fantasies. APA women and our allies have fought and continue to fight to dismantle these gendered racial stereotypes in a white-male-dominated society. In the legal profession, the intersection of gender, race, and oppression are felt as those in power too often judge APA women as either too passive to lead or too shrewd to trust.
This mass murderer’s words and actions are the ultimate objectification of APA women. These women served as objects for his pleasure and objects for his hate at the same time. We are not dealing well with coded speculation that would place blame on the victims for their murders. We are not dealing well with this man’s claims that he was struggling with sexual addiction, that he targeted those spas to eliminate his temptation, and that he was not motivated by the race of his victims. We are not dealing well with the attempts to show how he is different from the rest of our society—this white, Christian man who was battling his demons, whom we can persecute and condemn as an “evil” while we relegate his victims to the roles of unlucky, tragic minor characters in his life story. Another mass murderer. Women who were in the wrong profession at the wrong place at the wrong time. This happens in America.
While we believe that the arc of history bends towards justice, and the fight for antiracism and gender equity slowly moves forward, moments like this are truly awful and shake us to the core. We live in a society where a white, Christian man can dehumanize a group of APA women to such an extent that he can claim that race had nothing to do with him killing them. More disturbingly, we as a society have the audacity to entertain such notions. Too often our first response to deeply traumatic events is to otherize the perpetrators and victims so that we can avoid looking internally at the systemic racism and misogyny that create the conditions for hate-filled violence.
The Atlanta Spa shootings as well as the coverage of the incidents compel us to recognize the urgency of the need to work together to dismantle our country’s interlocking systems of oppression. For now, we ask that you give those of us who need to mourn, process, and heal the time and space to do so. Soon enough, all of us will rise, and we ask that you join us.
AABA was founded on the belief that a professional bar association could serve not only the interests of its members, but also the community from which its members have come. Our mission includes promoting the professional growth of our members; mentoring law students and new lawyers, providing services to our local community; fostering the exchange of ideas and information among our members and community leaders; partnering with other minority organizations on common matters of concern; and offering policy recommendations on legal, social, political, and economic interests significant to our community.
To learn more about AABA, visit www.aabachicago.org, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram (@aabachicago).
Congratulations to Judge Sanjay Tailor on his appointment to Full Circuit Judge of Cook County and new Acting Presiding Judge of the County Division. Judge Tailor's appointment is a historic first in Illinois as he is now the state's first Asian American presiding judge.
Tonight's reception featured wonderful remarks from Justice Mary Jane Theis, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, Judge Anjana Hansen, Judge Rena Van Tine, and Judge Sanjay Tailor himself.
Thank you to all 250+ guests for attending tonight's reception, and to the Asian American Judges Association of Illinois (AAJA), the Chinese American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (CABA), the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago (FALA), the Japanese American Bar Association - Chicago Committee (JABA), the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago (KABA), and the South Asian Bar Association of Chicago (SABA) for co-sponsoring this event!
Former AABA Chicago president Gary Zhao was interviewed by ABC 7 Chicago regarding his support of President Biden's executive order condemning the wave of racism towards Asian-Americans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that “In our meetings and discussions, we noticed many incidences of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.”
See more at: https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/YMhfCyP2v3h7yqBXIZQyFd?domain=abc7chicago.com/
Chicago, IL – AABA condemns yesterday’s assault on the United States Capitol during the process to certify the Electoral College votes. AABA calls upon President Trump and all other leaders to condemn this violence, denounce the assault as seditious criminal conduct, and to bring those responsible to justice to the full extent of the law.
The American people have voted. Both sides of the political divide have made their voices heard with a historic turnout of voters. Poll workers, election protection volunteers, local election staff, and municipality personnel across the political spectrum worked diligently to ensure a safe and trusted election cycle across the country. Claims of irregularities have been investigated. Audits and recounts have taken place. The states have certified the results. The Electoral College has voted. Courts have shot down legal challenge after legal challenge and have found nothing to undermine the notion that the 2020 election was free and fair. All lawful processes to reelect President Trump or to challenge the election results have been exhausted.
John Adams, one of our country’s founders and our second president, observed that “we must be a nation of laws and not of men.” We must heed this message and warning now. The words of President Trump and other leaders who seek to overturn a free and fair election are not the law. Words that pushed many to move beyond constitutionally protected peaceful protest to illegal acts of violence and destruction at one of our country’s most sacred spaces are not the law. President Trump is not the law and not above it. No president is. No person is.
We recognize that unjust laws have existed throughout our country’s history, which have contributed to the systemic oppression many Americans face today. We support efforts to change discriminatory laws as well as the right to protest to push for change. That is not what we witnessed yesterday. What we saw yesterday was violence set ablaze on a pyre of lies. We saw images of the siege on our Capitol by hundreds carrying Trump and confederate flags. We saw fear in the eyes of lawmakers trying to take shelter. We could imagine the smirk on the faces of the rioters who were taking selfies as they lounged in our representatives’ chairs. What we felt was a visceral desecration of our being as Americans.
“Seeing yesterday’s events at the U.S. Capitol unfold was painful. What those who stormed the Capitol did was criminal,” said AABA President Kristy Gonowon. “As members of the legal community, my colleagues and I have the privilege and duty to preserve and protect the rule of law. Thus, we condemn in the strongest terms these acts of violence. We ask our family, friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans to remember that, despite our differences, we must stand together as one nation, indivisible, committed to our shared belief in liberty and justice for all. We are a nation of laws and not of men. We must all do our part to ensure that it stays that way.”
AABA is hosting a virtual panel on Thursday, October 22, 2020 titled "Emerging Power of Asian Pacific American Voters" featuring a discussion on how we got to where we are now and how you can raise your voice for the future of APAs and our country. To accompany the panel, AABA has created an action plan with tangible steps you can take to make a difference in the upcoming election.
Download a PDF or Word version of AABA's Action Plan for Voting here:
AABA Action Plan for Voting.pdf
AABA Action Plan for Voting.docx
On September 29, AABA hosted its first virtual speed networking event. We were able to coordinate 25 pairings with law students across the country and the experience was rewarding for both participating attorneys and law students!
We are incredibly proud of our Board Member Sonni Choi Williams!
Sonni was recently appointed by Governor JB Pritzker to serve on the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission (https://www2.illinois.gov/Pages/news-item.aspx...) and will be awarded the Northern Illinois University College of Law's "Alum of the Year" Award on October 14 (registration for the awards reception is free at https://law.news.niu.edu/.../niu-law-to-honor.../). Congratulations Sonni on your recent accomplishments!
On May 22, 2020 AABA hosted its first virtual talent show. It was extremely well-attended, with Jenner & Block hosting.
The Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago Stands in Solidarity with George Floyd’s Family and the Larger African American Community
The Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (AABA) is deeply saddened by George Floyd’s death. We mourn his loss, and our hearts go out to his family.
Across the nation, we hear cries of grief and frustration. As protests rise up in so many cities, we see Americans of all colors chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” We feel the anguish in the eyes of those holding up signs that read, “My skin is not a weapon,” and “Why are you so afraid of me?” Like many in this country, we are greatly disturbed by the circumstances of Floyd’s death. While we often use our voices to advocate for the Asian American community, the current situation calls on us to stand with the African American community, and thus, we direct our voice inwards to our Asian American community.
We at AABA take this message to heart, too, and we call on the broader Asian American community to do the same. Now is not a time to hunker down in our bunkers, let alone incite violence as the President has done. Rather, it is time to stand in solidarity with the African American community, to mourn together, and to rise together.
Over fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “America can and should be […] a moral power, a power harnessed to the service of peace and human beings, not an inhumane power unleashed against defenseless people.” These words still ring true, as violence is wielded to oppress unarmed Black Americans today. Yet, in that speech, MLK was not giving voice to Africans Americans. He was speaking on behalf of Asian victims of the Vietnam War. Despite the unpopularity of his position at the time, with many of his allies pleading that he not take away the spotlight on the fight for the lives and rights of Black Americans, he stated that his conscience left him no choice but to stand with victims of the war. A few years earlier, MLK had written the famous phrase in his letter from Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He took his own message to heart and stood up for Asians with whom he shared little other than the lived experience of pain, suffering, and oppression.
We understand that the Asian American community is hurting right now. The rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic from the highest position of this country has empowered many to treat Asian Americans as scapegoats for the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties of a worldwide health crisis. But, we must recognize that the African American community has been hit hard in the past several months as well. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are exhibits on a long list of evidence of an unjust system of policing and the use of violence to oppress African Americans in this country. And while the rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic has recently been weaponized to oppress Asian Americans, the pandemic has actually killed African Americans at a higher rate than any other group, almost three times the rate of White Americans.
While we as Asian Americans struggle with our current reality—living in fear of harassment and violence in public spaces—we must recognize that this struggle has been a constant reality for Black Americans in this country. Due to the increased hostility toward our community, some of us might argue that this is a time to keep our heads down and to stick with our own. Some of us might propose that this is a time to work harder to show our American-ness. Yet, at AABA, we recognize that racism is wrong, and a system that perpetuates racism is broken and must be fixed. Hate takes on many forms and shades. No matter how hard we work to show that we should not be hated, it is a disease that constantly adapts to the situation to infect us. Instead of focusing on how we can change ourselves to fit in, we should center our discussion on how we fit into the work needed to make change.
We recognize that our fight to advocate for Asian Americans is inextricably linked to the great struggle against racism in this country. If we want to no longer be treated as perpetual strangers in this country, then we must work with our natural allies—the African American community, the Latinx community, and others who have been marginalized—to push for antiracist policies and to shape this country into one that welcomes people of all colors. Remember Vincent Chin. Remember Fred Korematsu. The Asian American community has a long history of fighting against racism in this country, and it is time that we are again at the forefront of that fight.
We hope that the whole Asian American community will join us in standing in solidarity with the African American community and saying: You are not alone. Your tears are our tears. Your freedom is our freedom. Your fight is our fight. Only when Black Lives Matter, can all lives matter.
Asian American Bar Association of
321 S Plymouth Court
Chicago, IL 60604