People rally at a Stop Asian Hate march and rally in Koreatown on March 27, 2021, in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed into law Tuesday a pair of bills aimed at addressing harassment and hate in public spaces after Asian Americans pushed for action.
Why it matters: Two in three of the nearly 11,500 incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate in the last two years involved harassment such as verbal hate speech or inappropriate gestures — but verbal harassment often doesn’t meet the legal definition of a hate crime. Advocates say the new laws are a first step toward developing better policy recommendations to address that gap.
- Data compiled by Stop AAPI Hate shows that 40% of self-reported anti-Asian hate incidents occurred in public spaces.
- Over 27% took place in businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies. Nearly one in 10 incidents happened on public transit.
Driving the news: The new legislation, which Stop AAPI Hate played a role in developing, requires the Mineta Transportation Institute to research and create tools for assessing harassment of passengers as part of an effort to inform public transit safety initiatives.
- It also calls on California’s Civil Rights Department to create and implement a pilot program that will incentivize businesses to create environments for customers that are free of discrimination and harassment.
- The legislation focused on harassment on public transit, in the streets and in businesses because they’re where the bulk of incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate take place.
- Though Asian American advocates and legislators led the bills, they are intended to help bolster protections for all marginalized communities, according to Stop AAPI Hate.
What they’re saying: “The vast majority of incidents reported to us do not involve an underlying criminal element whatsoever,” Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of the AAPI Equity Alliance, told Axios prior to the bills’ signage.
- It’s why “the criminal legal component is not going to answer all of the ills,” she said, pointing to racialized and sexualized comments directed at AAPI women that police wouldn’t consider a crime.
- “But I think that there actually continue to be a whole host of civil rights enforcement mechanisms that have been ignored, neglected, not fully utilized,” she noted.
- “And that’s where I will say we are very ambitious, both in terms of state as well as federal levels … that there are opportunities actually to build a civil rights infrastructure that addresses the need.”
The big picture: Hate crimes in California jumped almost 33% from 2020 to 2021, and are at their highest reported level since 2001.