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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow the series, click here.
On May 4, the California Civil Rights Department, the state agency in charge of enforcing California’s civil rights laws, launched California vs Hate, a state-wide initiative to address, combat and report hate incidents and crimes. California vs Hate was announced during a one-hour press conference in Sacramento at the State Capitol.
Kevin Kish, Director of the California Civil Rights Department, delivered opening remarks. “California vs Hate is the product of literally hundreds of people coming together to strategize, to think and to create something very unique in our state’s history,” he said.
The mission of the California Civil Rights Department is to protect the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing and businesses. But another commitment from the department, which often gets overlooked, is to protect Californians from hate violence.
The department received funding from the state legislature to establish the non-emergency CA vs. Hate Resource Line and Network to support individuals and communities that are victims of hate.
In 2021, California Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of District 66, introduced and authored Assembly Bill 557. AB 557 required the Department of Justice to “establish a grant program for the purpose of creating, supporting, and/or expanding the prosecutions of hate crimes,” as stated in the overview of the bill. The Department of Justice created the Hate Crime Vertical Prosecution Pilot Grant Program (HCVP), which led to the state legislature authorizing and granting funding to the California Civil Rights Department to establish the non-emergency CA vs. Hate Resource Line and Network.
“This initiative is run through the Civil Rights Department, but it expands on efforts on the local level and among other communities in the state, including LA vs Hate,” Kish said.
The California vs Hate initiative is meant not only to support individuals who are targeted by hate but also entire communities. Some of the goals of the initiative are to help hate crime survivors identify next steps after an act of hate, connect people with culturally competent resources and care coordination services, improve hate incident and crime reporting data and enhance prevention and response.
Kish also said that California vs Hate was created in response to calls for help from state, city and local communities, as well as from government leaders, for resources and support amid
the recent increases in reported hate crimes. Kish said that hate crimes are at their highest level since 2001 and jumped almost 33% from 2020 to 2021. “We also know that these numbers are not the complete picture,” he said. “We know that a lot of people do not report when they experience an act of hate. This can be for many reasons, including out of distrust of government or fear.”
The press conference also featured multicultural community artwork presented by the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. The artwork was titled “How I Keep Looking Up/Como Sigo Mirando Hacia Arriba/仰望” and it is a trilingual, multiethnic, community-based public art action.
The artwork, which was showcased in flags and adorned the background of the press conference, was created and assembled by 16 working-class immigrant women. “How I Keep Looking Up/Como Sigo Mirando Hacia Arriba/仰望” was a product of a series of workshops where the women shared their migration journeys, developed design skills and created the flags alongside one another.
Jenny Leung, Executive Director of the Chinese Culture Center, said that art is a powerful tool to prevent hate. “When we come together and build communities through mutual understanding and art, this is what stopping hate looks like,” Leung said.
One of California vs Hate’s main components is its free hotline. Californians can call 1- 833-866-4283 (1-833-8NO-HATE) and receive support services. California vs Hate personnel and staff, also known as care coordinators, are on duty Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.to 6 p.m.
Victims of hate crimes are encouraged to call any time, even if the staff is not on duty. An operator will answer, and callers will receive a call back from a care coordinator as soon as possible. A care coordinator may introduce victims to resources and support, including legal, financial, mental health and mediation services. Care coordinators can offer these resources in more than 200 languages. Hate crime victims also have the option to make a report online, if they prefer.
Assemblymember Muratsuchi said that sometimes hate crimes and hate incidents target entire communities, not just individual victims. “We all saw how incidents of hate targeting Asian Americans tremendously spiked not only in California but across the country during the pandemic, “ she said. “And as my colleagues here in the legislature worked to fight back, we quickly saw that this pandemic of hate was not only targeting Asian but so many communities here in California: Black and Brown, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim and Indigenous people.”
In addition, Muratsuchi said that this hotline will not only help track hate crimes but will also prevent incidents of hate. “With this initiative, California is going to lead in the nationwide fight against hate, and I look forward, along with all of my colleagues from the legislature, to continue to be part of this fight,” he said.
California vs Hate is not affiliated with law enforcement, and hate crime victims can also report anonymously. “Your report will not be shared with law enforcement without your consent. We will only connect you with law enforcement if you request it. Our team can share information about how to report to police or local prosecutors if needed,” as stated on the initiative website.
An important component of California vs Hate is that it will help victims identify civil legal options that don’t involve the criminal legal system. This is not a mandatory procedure and is only an option if the hate crime victims wish to be connected to these resources.
California vs Hate works alongside other agencies, such as community organizations and non-profit organizations that already offer services in important areas of focus like immigration, food and health, housing and other basic needs that victims might need.
One of these organizations is the TransLatin@ Coalition, which advocates for the specific needs of the transgender community and plans strategies that improve the quality of life for transgender individuals. Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition and Vice Chair for the California Commission on the State of Hate, was also present at Thursday’s press conference and said that there’s still work that needs to be done in hate crime prevention but that “this is a great first step” to combat hate.
“I wish I had this resource when I was a victim of the hate crime that I experienced, but it fills me with comfort that there is now this resource available for other members of my community who continue to be attacked, diminished and devalued simply for who we are and our existence,” Salcedo said.
Salcedo also said that law enforcers should play a significant role in hate crime prevention. “We need to work together to ensure that law enforcement also understands what needs to happen in order for all of us to eliminate the hate that we experience,” she said. “I know that through this campaign we will change a lot of minds and hearts.”
California is currently home to approximately 10.5 million immigrants, or 23% of the foreign-born population nationwide, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. “The vast majority of California’s immigrants were born in Latin America (49%) or Asia (39%),” as stated in its 2023 factsheet.
Since the largest group of immigrants in California, documented and undocumented, are Latinos, officials say that California vs Hate doesn’t want a person’s immigration status to impede reporting hate crimes or accessing resources for their well-being. California vs Hate will not ask survivors or victims of hate to disclose their immigration status at any time, and hotline services are provided free of charge, regardless of immigration status.
Jennifer Lynn Siebel Newsom, the current first partner of California and the wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom, was also present at the May 4 press conference. She said that this initiative will help California model allyship and help Californians feel valued and heard. “The governor and I are incredibly proud to live and raise our children in a state that stands up to racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and all forms of hate,” Siebel Newsom said. “I’m a firm believer that what binds us is our common humanity. I want all of us to remember that we are 99.9% identical.”
Becky L. Monroe, the Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives and External Affairs and the CA Civil Rights Department, said during the press conference that California vs Hate personnel and organizers have learned a lot from other states and cities that also provide hate crime support via hotlines. One of them is LA vs Hate, a community-centered system designed to support all residents and communities targeted for hate acts of all kinds in Los Angeles County. Monroe said that because California vs Hate is a new initiative, she doesn’t expect to have Californians’ complete trust in the beginning. “We have to earn that trust,” she said.
Siebel Newsom closed her speech by reminding everyone present of the type of state that California is. “California’s diversity is what makes it so vibrant and such a culturally-rich state,” she said. “There is no room for bigotry and hate here. We all belong here, all of us. We get to call this great state home.” To learn more about California vs Hate, visit their website at www.cavshate.org. The hotline is now open, and all Californians can report a hate crime by calling 1-833-8NO-HATE or by using their online option HERE.