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Rise in hate crimes creates concern nationwide

Tension and discord based on race and ethnicity have been an ongoing societal issue for ages. Now, recognizing the substantial  increase in race-based and ethnic-based acts of violence and hate, state officials are working on more ways  to protect those who are victimized and harmed by the increasing acts of violence and hate.

The California State Legislature recently launched a “Stop the Hate” initiative to assist nonprofit organizations and ethnic media in tackling the growing number of racial and ethnic hate crimes and incidents. The state’s initiative follows the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement in May 2022 of its new initiatives that are designed to address and prevent hate crimes and hate incidents.

    Speakers at a media briefing, held by Ethnic Media Services on August 19, 2022 discussed how hate crimes are defined, the rise in hate crimes and what we need to do to stop them.

Susanna Yee, a transformational justice activist, lost her grandmother after a brutal attack in 2019. Her grandmother was severely beaten while walking in a park in San Francisco. She died after being hospitalized and hooked up to breathing tubes. Her attacker was a 17-year-old youth who is currently awaiting trial for homicide.

 Yee said the incident sparked her desire for understanding, healing and unity. Her focus is on how we heal from hate. She participates in several approaches to bring healing. One is called “Move the Chi” in San Francisco, which offers different healing methods that are free to participants. “This is an example of using plants to cleanse the body and provide often massage, acupuncture, various culturally specific healing tools for our diverse community,” Yee stated.

She recalled taking a road trip earlier this summer with Black and Chinese high school students, traveling around the country in hopes of learning about each other’s culture.  

 “We, at the end, got to understand who makes us who we are as individuals and as a collective,” Yee said, “because we come with racial trauma. … We come with a lot of racial trauma and baggage, but when we can be frank about it in these group check ins, we have an honest dialogue, and start debunking stereotypes and really learn how we are experiencing life on the daily and not these sort of sensationalized titles.” Yee encourages people to cultivate a culture of belonging.

Difference between hate crimes and hate incidents 

 Was Yee’s grandmother’s death the result of a hate crime or a hate incident? Becky Monroe, the deputy director of Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs for the California Civil Rights Department, explained the difference between the two. Monroe said that under California law, a hate crime is a criminal act based on a person’s actual or perceived characteristics (such as their race, for example), or on that person’s affiliation with someone or a group with one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics in question. A hate incident is hostile treatment that is driven by another person’s actual or perceived characteristics.

    She also said that a hate incident can be thought of in two different categories: incidents that are acts of hate that violate civil rights laws, and other incidents that are acts of hate that may not violate laws but still cause significant harm to a particular community. She pointed out the importance of these different definitions, as you will hear people try to make the distinction between the two.

Reporting hate crimes and incidents

   Challenges can develop when people try to report hate crimes. Federal data for 2020 (released in October 2021) from the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Act Report indicates that hate crimes targeting Black people increased by 43 percent, and anti-Asian hate crimes increased by more than 73 percent. Also, 8,263 hate crimes were reported, which is the highest number since 2008, and a 13 percent increase over the previous year. But, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the number of hate crimes is closer to 250,000 per year. The increase in reported hate crimes comes despite a decline in the number of law enforcement agencies providing data to the FBI.

    Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, stated that the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ latest victimization study has underreported hate crimes down to only around 200,000, but that number would still be 1 percent of violent crimes, which he described as “astounding.” Also, toward the end of last decade, the majority of victims reported a slight majority, but were not in communities that are the most vulnerable.

Massive underreporting

    “So you’ve got to take all this with a grain of salt. But the bottom line is, we know there’s massive underreporting that’s many times what the FBI is finding,” Levin said. “There’s some white noise around the data. … We have issues with regard to data from law enforcement.”

    Levin shared research that shows a 39.2 percent increase in hate crimes from 2020 to 2021 for the 10 most populous cities in the United States, which includes Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose. For 2020, the statistics showed that of the 50 largest cities, 30 percent of the crimes were committed by Latinos, 19 percent by Blacks, 10 percent by Asians, and 36 percent by whites. But overall in the United States, statistics showed that 19 percent of the hate crimes were committed by Latinos, 12 percent by Blacks, 6 percent by Asians, and 58 percent by whites. Levin pointed out that cities are more diverse, so there are more offenders of color in cities that have more people of color.

    Monroe mentioned that the Stop AAPI Hate organization “(has) been at the forefront of really emphasizing that we cannot discount something because it doesn’t rise to the level of crime, (since) it still causes deep harm in the community.”

    Manjusha Kulkarni, a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, shared that over the last two years, the organization has received over 10,905 reports of discrimination in the United States, and a large percentage of reported incidents (48.7 percent) occur in public areas, like parks and streets, and 26.9 percent take place in businesses. Verbal harassment and physical assault at 63 percent and 16.2 percent respectively, are the two biggest types of incidents reported. Most of the hate incidents (61.8 percent) are reported by women, young people -- 17 and under -- reporting 9.9 percent of the incidents and seniors over 60 reporting 7 percent of the incidents.

    A majority of Stop AAPI Hate’s reported incidents are traumatic and harmful, but they cannot be classified as hate crimes. Consequently, Kulkarni said this  “should encourage us to know and understand that a one-size-fits-all solution does not work, and that policing is not going to be the answer to all of our problems here. … We need a comprehensive civil rights infrastructure.”

    She stated that the Southern Poverty Law Center found infiltration by white supremacist groups in not only police departments across the U.S., but also the military, pointing to a number of law enforcement individuals involved in last year’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building. Kulkarni does not see relying simply on law enforcement as the solution.

    “There’s actually very troubling data in terms of how there’s a disproportionate number of arrests and stops of African-American and Latinx men particularly, so I think it’s a systemic problem and one that we need broad basis stemming solutions for,” she said.

    The approach that Stop AAPI Hate adopted is to serve as the leading aggregator of anti-Asian and Pacific Islander hate incidents, to offer multilingual resources for community members affected, to provide technical assistance that include rapid and preventative measures, to support community-based safety measures and restorative justice efforts, and to advocate for local, state and national policies that reinforces human rights and civil rights protections. Stop AAPI Hate currently has a few bills in the California State Legislature.

    The California Civil Rights Department’s “California vs. Hate” initiative is a resource line and network to build awareness about what hate crimes are and how to report them. The objective of this initiative is to not only support victims, but also bring in other people who have not experienced hate crimes, and have them all come together.

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