By Cherie M. Querol Moreno
SAN FRANCISCO – Complex problems demand complex solutions, Asian and Pacific Islander American lawmakers concurred at a webinar co-organized August 9 by eight Asian Consuls General and Asia Society Northern California to strengthen protections for the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
Legislation combined with education and collaboration is imperative to combat the unabated violence against Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) in this country as a consequence of political rhetoric blaming the Covid19 pandemic on China. Nearly 7,000 cases have been reported as of March 2021 by Stop AAPI Hate, the California initiative launched in March 2020 aimed at tracking and quelling the attacks.
STEP UP, SPEAK OUT
“Be vocal, call it out, condemn it,” Orange County State Sen. Dave Min touched a nerve in addressing the docile Asian stereotype at Strengthening Solidarity Against Asian Hate joined by 170 API community advocates. He urged the “silent majority…to step up” against those who “believe it’s OK” to attack APIs and other targeted populations.
A former law professor at UC Irvine, Min famously upset the incumbent in last year’s race for the 37th District. He endorsed the UCI pilot project to stop bullying of Asian students in schools as he pushed for the requirement of Ethnic Studies in high schools and community colleges as a way of “building bridges and fostering better communities through understanding” of the diverse cultures in this country.
HISTORIC EQUITY BUDGET
“Having data is important…and the AAPI media is a critical source of information,” stressed 19th District Assembly Member Phil Ting, whose jurisdiction includes cities with high concentrations of Filipinos – Daly City, Colma and parts of San Francisco and South San Francisco. He touted the API Legislative Caucus effort to include the unprecedented $200 million API Equity Budget he had led in crafting as head of the Assembly Budget Committee.
“This is a really historic proposal because it’s really a flashpoint for our community to stand up and to ask to be seen, but also ask to be heard,” he reiterated the impetus for the mega-tranche dedicated to combating Asian hate crimes in the $260-billion State budget recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Over half the amount will go to victim services including a hotline to be staffed in multiple Asian languages. Community centers will benefit from $20 million; Stop AAPI Hate, which was founded by Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Dept of San Francisco State University, will receive $10 million.
HATE CRIMES HOTLINE
“What happens abroad affects us here,” 66th District Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi pointed to the cyclical course of race hatred in this country that is linked to the impact of world affairs on the US. The southern California lawmaker heralded “public-private partnerships” for AB557 creating a hate crimes hotline. Muratsuchi had introduced the bill with Member David Chiu and co-authored with State Senator Min and then-Assembly Member Rob Bonta, and other legislators.
AB557 would require the Department of Justice to “provide grants to community-based organizations and local government agencies to operate telephone hotlines or online reporting portals for the reporting of hate crimes, and for the sharing of information about the characteristics of hate crimes, protected classes, civil remedies, and reporting options.”
The bill also would require DOJ collaboration with grant recipients to develop uniform training and procedures. Grant recipients, in turn, would provide specified data to the department and would require the department to compile that data and prepare an annual report.
Ting singled out the “previous president” and the lack of leadership last year in Washington that “stoked” deep resentment for Asians “amplified by Covid.”
“We all look the same to them,” he explained the widespread attacks, noting that even in the State Capitol he and his colleagues are mistaken for one another though his ancestry is Chinese, Muratsuchi Japanese and Min Korean. The legislators shared the current situation and their childhood encounters with race hatred as the continuum of the nation’s history of xenophobia that flared with the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Watsonville race riots.
Attorney General Bonta in a video message set the tone for the panel discussion reiterating his pledge to safeguard civil rights and promote social justice with CARE or Office of Community Awareness, Response and Engagement, his initiative to reach out to “historically marginalized and underrepresented communities in line with DOJ’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of its work on behalf of the people of California, including in the fight for environmental, economic, and social justice.”
In May Bonta launched the Racial Justice Bureau to confront and stop hate crimes in California.
Philippine Consul Gen. Neil Frank Ferrer opened the program with a message on behalf of his fellow ASEAN envoys condemning the attacks, expressing sympathy for victims and “re-affirming support for the US government’s efforts to address the root causes of racism and hate” for Asians. (Related article in Upside.)