LA County's Human Relations Commission's New Approach To Documenting Hate Crimes
Speaker 1: 00:00 For many people in the Asian American Pacific Islander community fear about the pandemic has been compounded by anti-Asian hate today. SDS used department of sociology and center for community research and engagement will hold a talk on acts of hate immigration and the pandemic Robin Toma, who is the executive director of the human relations commission in Los Angeles will speak about innovations in documenting and addressing acts of hate as these crimes continue to uptick Robin, welcome to the show. Thank you. So the event is titled acts of hate immigration and the pandemic. Talk to me about how all three of these things are connected. Speaker 2: 00:41 We know that a frequent target of hate crimes are immigrants. And, um, unfortunately that's nothing new. We, we know that immigrants are historically scapegoated, um, but we see that in our hate crime data every year. And at the same time, we know that during the pandemic, those sentiments sometimes worsen and we have seen, um, increases in anti-immigrant related hate crime in Los Angeles County as well. During this time previous to the pandemic. Um, in 2019, we saw that it was growing, uh, 30, 35% increase in anti-Asian hate crime. So what we're talking about is something that preexisted the pandemic, but has gotten worse during this time. And so we know that some of the factors that have contributed to it are clearly the scapegoating of Asians, um, connected to the pandemic. And unfortunately we know that that's part of, uh, the language and the rhetoric that's been used from our highest levels of leadership in, uh, in our country. Um, and so that has really fueled the, the kinds of things we're seeing on the ground Speaker 1: 01:50 And your office is taking a new approach to research and document these instances of hate, what are you doing now? Speaker 2: 01:58 What we decided to do was something rather unprecedented. We, we saw what was happening as the normalization of hate that more and more people were experiencing, uh, hateful attitudes and acts of prejudice and hostility in the streets and in school campuses and workplaces in businesses. And that by and large people were, um, sharing the outrage, but there wasn't actually anything that could be done about it. It appeared to be that way, acts of hate that that did not, that did not include a crime such as being yelled at viciously, by somebody with all full of racial or other expletives and person being angry and threatening. You know, oftentimes the police would say, well, unfortunately, that, that kind of behavior is all too common. We can't do anything about it. I myself have experienced, uh, acts of hate. And I'm sure most of your listeners have as well. Speaker 2: 02:52 And, uh, we can also, uh, uh, attest to the fact that when that happens, there's really nothing much that we thought we could. We decided to end that. And, uh, what we've created is a system of reporting that could allow people to call just dialing two, one, one, if they're in Los Angeles County at any time, and they would be able to connected to a person 24 hours a day, seven days a week in any language for free, um, the ability to report and get help. You can get counseling, you can actually pursue a civil rights action that doesn't require police. It requires you pursuing it through a state agency or County agency we've already done that. It helped a woman who was subjected to this in a restaurant and got in the restaurant to take some measures that would make it less likely it's going to happen to somebody else, Speaker 1: 03:42 You know, as California reopens and people are out in common spaces. Is there a concern that the vulnerability of the AAPI community is raised in terms of hate crimes? Speaker 2: 03:54 Well, there's no question that there is a lot of fear among the Asian American community. Um, as people return to physical spaces where that they're going to be sharing classrooms and campuses and workplaces and restaurants and venues of all sorts, uh, we recognize that that increases the chance for there to be the kind of open prejudice, but sometimes, uh, unconscious prejudice. So we know that, uh, there is that likelihood and we're preparing for that. We're working with schools to, um, to have in place and be sure that their policies and practices and training is up to date to deal with, uh, bullying and, and acts of hate and discrimination by students. Um, we are, um, putting out the message there in many communities using a very unique approach, using artists in different communities to, to reach communities. Speaker 1: 04:50 You know, when we look at the country, how do you think law enforcement is doing and addressing these hate crimes, particularly when you look at what happened with the shootings in the Atlanta area last month, where law enforcement didn't even classify that crime as a hate crime. Speaker 2: 05:05 Yes, it's, it's constant constantly a, um, an area of training that's required, so that officers are, um, understanding what constitutes a hate crime. And, um, particularly in, in a situation where the evidence may not be evident at the beginning, or there might be another motive stated or apparent, um, many police officers still aren't clear that, um, it doesn't matter if there's another motive, as long as it's, uh, hate is a substantial motive. If prejudice against someone's race, religion, national origin, gender, um, gender identity, um, uh, ethnicity or any of those things, uh, it doesn't have to be the sole motive. And so, um, and sometimes it requires, you know, a sophisticated analysis to understand what's going on with a person, um, so that people can understand that, um, something that might not apparently be a hate crime, where there might be another motive. It doesn't mean it. Isn't also fueled by hate. Speaker 1: 06:05 I've been speaking with Robin Toma, executive director of the human relations commission in Los Angeles. You can catch his speech at 4:00 PM today to find the zoom link and more information, visit kpbs.org. Robyn, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 06:20 Thank you so much for having me.