Asian Americans lead the fight against hate crimes in California

  • by Michael Yamashita |
  • Tuesday November 8, 2022
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People gather in Brooklyn, New York in August 2020 to protest against hate crimes after the attack of an 89 year old Asian woman in Bensonhurst. Photo: Sam Aronov
People gather in Brooklyn, New York in August 2020 to protest against hate crimes after the attack of an 89 year old Asian woman in Bensonhurst. Photo: Sam Aronov

In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two bills that address the unprecedented number of bias incidents and hate crimes in the state. Initially aimed to confront the rise of such cases against Asian American and Pacific Islanders, the laws will also aid in defense of LGBTQs, who have experienced a similar increase. It's an example of the importance of allies and cooperation among victimized communities to provide the means to combat harassing comments and violent behavior spurred by racial/sexual slurs, conspiracy theories, and political rhetoric.

Earlier, in June, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (the first Filipino American named to the position when Newsom appointed him last year; he stands for election in November) released his office's report on hate crimes statistics for 2021, which revealed that figures for the state are at their highest levels in more than 20 years. In California, hate crimes are defined as crimes "against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim's real or perceived protected social group." Some threatening behavior or speech do not rise to the level of a hate crime but can be equally traumatizing and harmful to one's mental health and well-being.

The AG's report states that hate crimes reported in California increased 32.6% between 2020-2021, with the number of hate crimes against Black people still the most frequent overall but whose increase was 12.5%. Hate crimes against Asians "increased dramatically" by 177.5%. "Anti-Hispanic or Latino bias events increased 29.6%," according to the report, and "among hate crime events involving religious bias, anti-Jewish bias events were the most prevalent and increased 32.2%." Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people increased by 47.8%, although reported anti-transgender bias events fell 29.6% and those concerning gender bias decreased 12.9%.

During the same year period, the number of cases filed for prosecution by district attorneys and elected city attorneys involving hate crime charges in California increased by 30.1% (of the 610 hate crimes reported as referred for prosecution, 411 cases were filed of which 285 were hate crimes and 126 were non-bias motivated hate crimes). In response to these figures, Bonta announced the creation of a statewide hate crime coordinator within the California Department of Justice's Criminal Law Division "in order to further assist state and local law enforcement efforts to combat hate crime," he stated.

Continue reading this article at News Is Out

Michael Yamashita is the publisher of the Bay Area Reporter and a founding member of News Is Out, a pioneering national collaborative of queer media outlets. The collaborative includes 6 of the leading local and queer-owned LGBTQ+ publishers across the nation.

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The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.