Editorial: Standing up to hate

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday November 8, 2023
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California will observe United Against Hate Week November 12-18. Image: Courtesy uunitedagainsthateweek.org<br>
California will observe United Against Hate Week November 12-18. Image: Courtesy uunitedagainsthateweek.org

California will soon observe United Against Hate Week — November 12-18 — and it's needed now more than ever. In June, state Attorney General Rob Bonta released the state Department of Justice's annual hate crimes report that found documented anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were up in the Golden State, specifically for gay men, lesbians, and trans people.

As we reported at the time, Bonta blamed "racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and destructive language" for the uptick. Indeed, documented hate crimes against Black and African American Californians was the highest, accounting for 652 bias events in 2022, compared to 513 in 2021. The next most likely group was gay men, who were victimized by at least 271 documented hate crimes. The report listed 81 hate crimes as being motivated by "anti-homosexual bias."

The report also showed 49 anti-transgender hate crimes, 33 documented anti-lesbian hate crimes, 12 anti-gender-nonconforming hate crimes, and four anti-bisexual hate crimes. There were two documented anti-heterosexual hate crimes.

Excepting anti-bisexual hate crimes, these were all increases over 2021 numbers. Anti-gay male hate crimes rose by 28.4% alone, from 211 in 2021 to 271 in 2022, according to the report.

But we all know it's not just anti-LGBTQ hate that's an issue. As a result of the Israel-Hamas war that started after Hamas' October 7 surprise attack on Israel, antisemitic, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic hate speech are also on the rise, as gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said at last week's Board of Supervisors meeting where he introduced a resolution recognizing United Against Hate Week in San Francisco.

The week is "aimed at providing unity, understanding, and a rejection of hate and discrimination," Mandelman told his colleagues. The resolution was approved November 7 and co-sponsored by Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen, Dean Preston, and Catherine Stefani; Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin; and Mandelman's two gay colleagues, Supervisors Matt Dorsey and Joel Engardio. We thank Mandelman and his co-sponsors for recognizing this critical community-based stand against hate.

United Against Hate Week is organized by several state and local entities, including CA vs. Hate, which is run out of the state's Civil Rights Department, and the California State Library, which provides grants to groups to promote anti-hate efforts. (The Bay Area Reporter is a recipient of one of these grants, as we've reported.) It emerged in 2017 from a United Against Hate poster campaign created in response to white supremacist rallies that year in Berkeley and San Francisco. You probably saw the posters, "We Stand United Against Hate," or some that were city-specific such as, "Berkeley Stands United Against Hate," that first year.

In 2018, according to United Against Hate leaders, the 13 original communities that were involved were convened by Not In Our Town, which works to build safe, inclusive communities, and committed to an annual week of action and awareness. Today, United Against Hate Week has spread to over 200-plus communities, including all of Los Angeles County, faith-based groups, LGBTQ and human rights organizations. It is beginning to take off throughout California and in communities across the U.S., organizer Anthony Rodriguez explained on a recent Zoom call about this year's activities.

Hate comes in all types of forms, from bullying and spewing epithets to vandalism to physical attacks. The Bay Area is safer than a lot of communities, but is certainly not immune to this, as Mandelman pointed out in his comments on rising antisemitism, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic actions "around the world, as well as in the region and Bay Area." United Against Hate Week "provides an opportunity for San Francisco to join California and stand against hate and bigotry," he pointed out. It's "a rejection of hate and discrimination, and celebrates our shared commitment to inclusion and acceptance," he added.

On a national level, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland earlier this month spoke at a Justice Department United Against Hate forum that included Dennis and Judy Shepard and Houston police Officer Jamie Byrd-Grant, whose son and father, respectively, were killed in horrific hate crimes. The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by then-President Barack Obama. It gives the Justice Department important tools to work with, Garland said.

He, too, pointed to the increase in the volume and frequency of threats against Jewish, Arab, and Muslim communities across the country over the last several weeks. "The Justice Department has no tolerance for violence or unlawful threats of violence fueled by antisemitism or Islamophobia," Garland said.

A core principle of the Justice Department, he added, is that "no person and no community in this country should have to live in fear of hate fueled violence."

That's important to keep in mind as United Against Hate Week nears. It's fitting that this year's observance will take place as San Francisco attracts global attention by hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, conference at Moscone Center. This huge event will feature President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, among other world leaders, with hundreds of delegates in town as well. It's a great opportunity for the Bay Area to show its solidarity with this movement.

People can go to unitedagainsthateweek.org to find events in their area or create their own. At a time when anti-trans laws and policies are flooding the country, and antisemitism and Islamophobia roil college campuses and other venues, it is important to take a stand against hate. We are stronger when we are united.

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.

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