By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California committed $1.4 million toward helping Asian Americans report hate incidents and tracking the attacks after a slew of cases — including the murder of an 84-year-old man — has rocked the nation in recent weeks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the larger AB85 pandemic budget bill, which includes $1.4 million earmarked for researchers at the Asian American Studies Center at the University of California Los Angeles and the Stop AAPI Hate website, into law Tuesday.
California’s move to fund Asian-led community initiatives is markedly different than responses in other parts of the nation, such as New York City’s pledge to ramp up policing.
The Stop AAPI Hate site was launched nearly a year ago by a coalition of advocacy groups as the COVID-19 pandemic and its suspected origins in Wuhan, China, led to a new surge in anti-Asian attacks and discrimination in the U.S.
The site tracks hate incidents and helps Asian Americans report them in a dozen languages. It has logged nearly 3,000 hate incidents in 2020 alone, though lawmakers believe this is a tiny fraction of the total, as many victims in Asian American communities may not report due to distrust of the government and law enforcement.
“I think that’s only about one-tenth, or even fewer, of the actual hate crimes that are occurring, because most people don’t even know the website exists or don’t even know how to properly report a hate crime,” California assembly member Phil Ting, who helped draft this portion of the legislation, told ABC News.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the pandemic started,” Ting said. “I know people are upset and angry and they’re looking for people to blame, and unfortunately a few people are blaming the wrong individuals, and they’re blaming Asian Americans.”
“They’ve been getting attacked and getting murdered. They’ve been getting spit on,” he added. “It’s been pretty horrific.”
Ting said the emphasis on aiding reporting and data collection could help galvanize more action to combat the hate crimes.
“Unless you have data, it’s hard to say it’s a problem,” he said. “We all know individual acts of racism exist. Unless you can prove that it’s more widespread than one incident on a corner or one incident in a store, it’s very difficult to justify a larger response.”
Ting lamented former President Donald Trump’s use of “China virus” or “Kung flu,” saying these words from the highest branch of government are directly linked to the uptick in anti-Asian racism.
“When you see an uptick in hate speech, and I consider that hate speech, there’s always an uptick in hate crimes that go along with it,” Ting said. “Because it just becomes OK to say hateful things towards Asian Americans who have nothing to do with this virus, and then it becomes okay to assault Asian Americans.”
“The reason we’re taking a strong stance on this is because hate crimes are not an attack against an individual, they’re really an attack on a community,” he said. “They’re really meant to put fear into an overall community.”
Ting implored victims to report the incidents on the Stop AAPI Hate website, which is attempting to break down some of the language barriers and other factors that may lead people not to report hate crimes, even if they have occurred multiple times.
“They just try to shrug it off and just say, ‘Hey, this is just something I got to deal with, and I’m just going to move on,’ even though it’s fairly traumatic,” Ting said of many in the AAPI community. “I think in most instances, we just have people who would like to just forget the whole situation happened and move on and do nothing. And I think that’s really why we’re urging our community to please report it.”
Richard Pan, the chair of California’s Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, noted in a statement lauding the new legislation that anti-Asian racism in the U.S. did not start with the coronavirus pandemic.
Pan cited a long legacy of xenophobia in the U.S., from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“I am grateful that California will be funding data collection and research at UCLA to address racism and hate against the API community,” Pan added.
The Stop AAPI Hate Coalition told ABC News that it has learned over the past year it is “absolutely critical” to invest in documenting, tracking and analyzing the attacks in order to draw attention to the crisis.
“The funding allocated to Stop AAPI Hate will support the coalition’s efforts to address the devastating impact of anti-Asian hate, including tracking and documenting incidents in order to proactively prevent future incidents from occurring,” the coalition said in a statement.
“The funding will also allow the coalition to expand the resources it can offer directly to impacted community members and families, as well as establish new partnerships with organizations, businesses and governments to develop long-lasting policy and community-based solutions to hate and violence,” the statement added.
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