EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing CALÓ NEWS series on the state of hate in LA and California. If you are an expert on the subject, a victim, an activist or community leader, please contact us at email@example.com. To follow the series, click here.
Los Angeles is one of the most diverse places in the world, with more than a third – or about 37.7% – of its 3.8 million residents born in a country other than the United States, according to the World Population Review. The city government is relying on one particular department and its leader to focus on maintaining and strengthening the city’s diversity, equity and accountability, the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department. You can call it the LA Civil Rights (department) for short; and its main goals are to reduce bias, hate crimes and injustices.
In 2019, the LA City Council passed the Civil and Human Rights Law, which stated that the city had a duty to protect and promote public welfare within its boundaries and to protect residents and visitors against discrimination, threats and retaliation based on a real or perceived status. In addition, the enforcement of this law expedites Angeleno’s discrimination cases to get resolved at the state or federal level, a process that has been known to take years. “By holding businesses and individuals accountable for discriminatory behavior, the City will make clear that discrimination will not be tolerated,” as stated in the ordinance.
To ensure that this law would be impactful, city leaders created the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department to empower, amplify and protect underserved communities. It was created a year after the Civil and Human Rights Law was signed. Capri Maddox was named as the Executive Director of LA Civil Rights in June 2020, and the department was formally established by the City Council that following December.
“If there is a government start-up, it is us,” Maddox told CALÓ NEWS. “We are new, but we are here to serve all of what LA is. We have a very diverse staff. We want to represent the diversity of Los Angeles.”
Although the department is only made up of approximately 15 hired employees, it covers a wide range of services and goals, including reducing bias and injustices, hate prevention, upward mobility programming, youth programming and discrimination/bias awareness training.
Fighting against anti-hate and promoting equity is one of the department’s biggest focal points. Although LA Civil Rights does not document hate crimes, the department does focus on prevention efforts. In May 2021, the department formed LA for All, a creative-led campaign to stand against hate and encourage residents to speak out against hate crimes and hate incidents.
The multidimensional campaign combines art from local Asian Pacific Islander who promote messages of inclusivity or speak up against hate crime trends. “Seeing signs that tell people they belong in this city helps promote a sense of community and visibility for marginalized communities,” Maddox said.
Maddox said that since the launch, it has become the most comprehensive anti-hate public service announcement campaign in the city’s history. In 2022, the campaign won a Bronze Award from the American Advertising Federation’s Los Angeles Competition.
The campaign poster can be found in LA City parks, libraries, street banners, bus shelters, buses and airports. Some messages are: “LA is for Everyone,” “LA is Our Home,” “LA for All,” “We All Belong” and “Protect Our Elders.” The campaign also included a free poster program for small businesses, classrooms and organizations interested in standing up to hate with solidarity, inclusion, and information for reporting hate crimes and incidents.
Maddox said that the phrases in each poster were well planned and carry deep meanings for the different ethnic communities living in the LA. “When we think about the immigrant population, whether it be the API or Latino population, people are quick to assume that they are not part of their fellow Angeleno community, and that’s not true, they are all part of what makes LA this great city,” Maddox said. “This is their home. It’s sad that we still have to say that in 2023, but it’s true. We want perpetrators to know that we are standing with our fellow community and against acts of hate.”
The campaign posters are written in 18 different languages, including English, Spanish, Korean, Armenian, Arabic, Tagalog, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Hindi, Khmer, Russian, Farsi, Hebrew, Amharic and Tigrinya.
At the bottom of each poster is a list of resources and phone numbers, all in the designated languages. The department estimates that the LA for All campaign posters have been distributed in more than 4,500 places in the greater LA area.
The Crime Report
For Maddox, the LA County Hate Crime Report released last year by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations is alarming, but it also revealed that the services offered by the LA Civil Rights + Human Rights and Equity Department cover the needs most in demand among the communities they serve right now. “It’s concerning that every year we break last year’s record.”
In addition, the report shows that the number of hate crimes in LA County has reached the highest rate in the last 19 years. Reported hate crimes in LA County jumped by 23% in recent years, from 641 in 2020 to 786 in 2021. This is the highest recorded number since 2002.
Latinos comprised 25% of racial victims, according to the report. Anti-Latino crimes rose 10%, from 106 in 2020 to 117 in 2021. Latinos were also the group most likely to be targets of violent, racially motivated crime. In 78% of these crimes, anti-Mexican slurs were used.
Maddox said that she believes the rise in anti-Latino hate crimes can be tied to former President Donald Trump’s spouted racist views against minorities, immigrant and Mexican communities in particular. “I believe the rhetoric that we heard from the previous president had a lot to do with it, people started feeling bold to express their racist views and some feel empowered to do hateful acts against folks,” Maddox said. “As Trump came down the escalator to announce his presidency, the first group he bothered were Latinos. We need to know that half of our city is made up of Latinos, and hate crimes among them should not be at their all-time high.”
Mark Pampanin, the public information director for the LA Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department and Maddox’s right hand, said that the department is small but mighty. “We are still hiring new personnel, but the work that we do here all feels very personal,” he said. When talking about Maddox and the way she has overseen the whole department and their various campaigns and commissions, he said: “I don’t know how she does it. She must not sleep a lot. But in all honesty, she really does care.“
For Maddox, it’s personal
Advocating for the report of hate crimes is extremely important for Maddox, and she wants people to understand that reporting a crime is both brave and necessary. In high school, Maddox was a victim of a hate crime that she can remember detail by detail to this day.
“I was standing at a bus stop and cars were going past me on Olympic Boulevard, as I waited for the 328 bus. Someone in a passing blue vehicle threw a beer bottle at me, and it hit me in the head. As they drove past me, they called me the n-word. I felt the sharp pain and I realized I was bleeding,” she said. “I want you to know that I did not report that crime because I felt I did not have enough information to share with law enforcement, but I should have.”
“We work a great deal with the Los Angeles Police Department, and we want to make sure people feel safe and comfortable that anytime there’s a hate crime or incident, even if they do not have all the details of the perpetrator they can come forward, walk into any police department and reporting it,” Maddox said.
After the incident in high school, Maddox said that she recalls that she was walking around the neighborhood, still in shock, and noticing how many people walked away from her and only a couple went over to support her, something that made her very sad.
In order to prevent other people from going through that, she has made sure that the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department trains people on what to do if they witness a hate crime.
In April 2021, the department launched the Know Your Rights & Bystander Intervention Training, a series of public training for vulnerable communities, survivors of hate, and bystanders who want to know how to safely intervene in a hate crime. This training features agencies like LAPD, Civil Rights Commissioners and attorneys and other special guests, according to the department’s website.
“More people complain about how folks acted in the aftermath of their hate crimes than the actual crime,” Maddox said. “People will often say ‘The thing that hurt the most is that no one helped me, no one stood up for me’ and I think it’s important to know how to be a good ally and a good witness because it’s times like those that’s what people need and what they will remember.”
“We cannot find hate and discrimination alone unless we work to level the playfield,” Maddox said. One way the LA Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department hopes to accomplish this and bring equity to underserved communities is through their upcoming LA Civil Rights Peace and Healing Centers. The $2 million Peace and Healing Centers pilot program is part of the city’s Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgement of Institutional Racism Innovation Fund (REPAIR).
“So many things happened in the last few years, like the COVID-19 pandemic. With these centers, we want to address some of the economic, environmental, and social trauma that people have encountered in the last few years,” Maddox said. “The Peace and Healing Centers will be a place where people in the community can tell us what their needs are; maybe they need literacy classes, maybe they need a community garden, maybe they need childcare.”
The upcoming centers will operate in nine neighborhoods, referred to as “REPAIR zones,” including Pacoima, Mission Hills, Westlake, West Adams, Skid Row; Boyle Heights, South Los Angeles, Southeast LA and Wilmington.
“There is no wrong door to fighting hate crimes and discrimination,” Maddox said.
LA residents can now report hate crimes and hate incidents by calling 3-1-1, visiting myla311.lacity.org or using the MyLA311 app on their Apple or Android devices.
Anyone may report anonymously and receive access to additional community-based and crisis care resources. In addition, information about hate crime incidents or crimes may be submitted anonymously online or by calling 2-1-1. Visit the LA Civil, Human Rights, and Equity Department’s resource page HERE for additional state and legal resources.
NOTE: CALÓ NEWS is committed to reporting on hate crimes related to Latinos, from victims to perpetrators to change makers. If you or your organization would like to share your expertise regarding hate crime prevention in Los Angeles and Southern California, please contact Brenda Fernanda Verano at firstname.lastname@example.org.