The Asian American Justice + Innovation Lab is a community racial justice incubator. At its core, AAJIL (pronounced “agile”) offers general racial justice education for all that employs a decolonial framework and intentionally integrates Asian American histories and experiences. Radiating from that core work is the practice of mutual care through community-building, opportunities for collaboration and innovation, and the long-range potential for participants to impact their spheres of influence with values of justice, liberation, and collective agility.
Established in 2019, the Asian American Justice + Innovation Lab began as a series of educational racial justice workshops facilitated by Dr. Sandra So Hee Chi Kim. AAJIL grew out of a need she had observed in the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) world, where the majority of racial equity trainings tended to revolve around a Black/White binary. In a 2020 interview, she said:
"While that Black/White binary construct and the virulent anti-Blackness it produces is critically important to interrogate, resist, and dismantle, a blind spot of many racial equity programs is how they perpetuate the problem by leaving out the histories and experiences of other racialized groups. What they miss is how all racializations are co-constitutive and interlocking within white-dominant logics and structures.
I have found that the majority of people I meet have no idea what to do with Asian American racial identity. Many of my students at Cal State LA, most of whom are Latinx, express surprise when they learn that Asian Americans are people of color. Several students have told me that, before taking my class, they had thought Asian Americans were “basically white.” This is a systemic problem, not only in educational institutions that erase API histories by what they leave out of textbooks and course requirements, but also in society at large, where the toxic myth of “the model minority” is perpetuated in mass media, politics, and organizations.
Many Asian Americans themselves have internalized this myth. I started AAJIL in order to offer a different kind of racial justice education to anyone interested, without their having to pay university tuition to access it. AAJIL’s community racial justice trainings employ a decolonial framework that emphasizes the interlocking racializations of white supremacy with an intentional integration of Asian American histories and experiences. Radiating from that core work is the practice of mutual care through community-building, opportunities for collaboration and innovation, and hopefully the long-range potential for participants to impact their spheres of influence in racially just ways."
—Dr. Sandra So Hee Chi Kim, AAJIL's Founder