In September 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his appointments to the Commission on the State of Hate. As stated by the governor’s office, the new commission has three primary functions: to assess data on hate crimes in California, provide resources for victims and make policy recommendations to the governor, state legislature and state agencies in order to better protect civil rights.

Currently, there are five people appointed to the nine-member statewide commission. The remaining four will be appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Committee on Rules.

Before being established in California’s 2022 Budget Act, the Commission on the State of Hate was initially created by legislation seeking to address the growing epidemic of hate crimes and incidents in the golden state. 

This legislation was formerly known as Assembly Bill 1126, which Gov. Newsom signed in October 2021. Former Santa Monica Mayor and Assembly member Richard Bloom introduced and authored the bill, which would create the first-ever hate commission.

“The Commission is a necessary step towards understanding who is perpetrating these crimes, who is being targeted, and how we can develop policy solutions. Furthermore, AB 1126 will elevate the voices and testimony of hate crime survivors and give us important information that statistics can’t always provide,” said Bloom in a statement released in 20212. “The bill received broad bi-partisan support and I am grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this critical piece of legislation.” 

One of the appointees announced by Newsom includes 56-year-old Democrat, Cynthia Choi of San Francisco. Since 2016, Choi has been co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a community-based civil rights organization and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization that tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. She is the daughter of immigrants and was recently named to the TIME Magazine 100 List of Most Influential People in 2021

Another of Newsom’s appointments is Brian Levin, 58, of Orange County. Levin has been the founding director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a professor at the California State University, San Bernardino School of Criminology and Criminal Justice since 1999. He was a professor at Stockton University from 1996 to 1999. Levin was also a former New York City Police Department police officer from 1985 to 1989.

Democrat Shirin Sinnar, 45, from Palo Alto, is another appointee to the commission. She has been a professor at Stanford Law School since 2012. She was staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus from 2006 to 2009. Sinnar is also a member of the Journal of National Security Law, a biannual student-edited law journal and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Sinnar earned a master’s degree in international relations from Cambridge University and Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School.

There are two appointees on the commission from LA: Bamby Salcedo, 53, and Dr. Erroll G. Southers, 65. 

Salcedo is the president and chief executive officer of the TransLatin@ Coalition, which advocates for transgender and gender nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) immigrant women in LA. In 2021, Bamby visited the White House to speak on the issues of safety, inclusion and opportunities for transgender individuals. She was the HIV and Health Education Services project coordinator from 2007 to 2015 and the Transgender Harm Reduction project coordinator from 2007 to 2009, both at Children’s Hospital, LA. 

Salcedo told CALÓ NEWS last month hours after her commission appointment announcement that, as a commissioner of the state of California, she wanted to ensure that members of the LGBTQ+ community were included in the work and plans of the commission. “It’s a big deal and it was a process, but I’m so proud and excited to work with the rest of the commissioners,” she said. “It’s a big responsibility, one which I’m honored to have.” 

Dr. Southers, 65,  is a Democrat from L.A. He has held many positions at the University of Southern California since 2003. Today he is the associate senior vice president of Safety and Risk Assurance at USC, and adjunct staff at the RAND Corporation, a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges. He is also an advisor at Avata Intelligence since 2013 and is a managing director at TAL Global, an international security and risk consulting organization based in Silicon Valley. He was assistant chief of police commanding the Office of Homeland Security and Intelligence at Los Angeles World Airports from 2007 to 2010. Dr. Southers was also a former special agent at the FBI from 1984 to 1988. He earned a master of Public Administration degree and a Doctor of Policy, Planning and Development degree from USC. 

Dr. Southerns told CALÓ NEWS that the state of California and the entire nation is facing a “racing threat environment created by extremist narratives and the people who espouse them.” 

In regards to hate crimes and incidents, he said: “This is a multidimensional problem, and the approaches to reducing hate, promoting tolerance and preventing violence are necessarily complex. Identifying those solutions requires collaboration, and I am honored to work alongside consummate experts and leading practitioners as an appointee to the Commission on the State of Hate.”

“This is an opportunity for us to help the state and the nation track and study hate crimes and extremist violence and develop the policy solutions that can lead to a safer and more peaceful society,” Dr. Southerns added.

Kevin Kish, director of California’s Civil Rights Department said the establishment of the Commission and its appointees comes at a time when the state has been drastically affected by ​​hate-driven incidents.  

“This new commission is a new body created within our existing department. People are really going to look at this commission as an entity to lead and show the way in how we can best respond to and hopefully prevent hate incidents,” Kish told CALÓ NEWS. “As the Civil Right Department will be supporting the work of the commission and we will be working hard in hand to advance the interests of Californians when it comes to hate violence and hate incidents.”

In June, Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Department of Justice released the 2021 Hate Crime Report, which showed the number of victims of reported hate crimes increased. Hate crimes reported in the state increased 32.6% from 2020 to 2021 and are at their highest reported level since 2001, according to the report. Another key finding from the report is that anti-Latino bias events increased 29.6% from 2020 to 2021. 

After the release of the report, Bonta stated that reported hate crimes had “reached a level we haven’t seen in California since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11.” 

“As our state’s top law enforcement officer, I will continue to use the full authority of my office to fight back. We will keep working with our local law enforcement partners and community organizations to make sure every Californian feels seen, heard, and protected,” Bonta said in the same statement. “While there is no single solution, it’s up to all of us to heed the call, because when our communities feel empowered, they come forward. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand united — there is no place for hate in California.”

Kish said recent data like the one published by the Department of Justice, “tells a very disturbing story about the increase of hate crimes against nearly every group of people.” 

He also said that although it is impossible to represent every single community within the state in a nine-person body commission, the appointees are filled with knowledge and expertise from the work they have been doing for years in their prospective communities and organizations.

”The approaches and the solutions are not necessarily going to be the same for every group, community, or very geographical region in the state, but one important role of the commission will be in collecting the wisdom and working with people, stakeholders, and communities to identify what has worked for them in terms of preventing hate violence,“ he said. “I think the value of a commission is to provide a forum for all that information to be shared.”

One of the biggest problems when it comes to hate crimes is the reporting of such crimes and the inaccurate data of hate-driven incidents in the state of California. The attorney general’s office stated that the California Department of Justice recognizes the data presented in its reports may not adequately reflect the actual number of hate crime events that have occurred. The office also said that historically, hate crime data has been underreported, and Kish agrees. “One important thing that the government can do is try to get the most accurate data possible,” he said. “We know that the data we have now is not always accurate. Therefore one of the important roles of the commission is to identify what is the best source of data for these incidents and what is the best way we can best report that data so the public has those numbers and that understanding,” Kish added. 

The new commission must host a minimum of four in-person or virtual community forums on the state of hate per year. In addition, the commission is also expected to issue and publish an Annual State of Hate Commission Report to the governor and the legislature by July of each year, with the first one being by July 1, 2023. This annual report must provide a comprehensive accounting of hate crime activity statewide and report on relevant national hate crime trends and statistics, as well as make recommendations to reduce hate crimes. 

 Kish, who will be working closely with the appointees, says he is confident in the commission’s success. “They have been appointed because they are bringing their experience and knowledge that they already have,” he said. “The commission is one prong of a multi-pronged approach that the administration is now taking to try to understand, prevent and respond to hate in our state.”
To read the entire announcement and more information on those appointed to the commission, you can click HERE.

Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...