By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

California Attorney General Rob Bonta launched the Racial Justice Bureau (RJB) within the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and announced plans for a virtual conference against hate crime with California’s large city mayors. 

Together, the RJB and virtual conference are part of the state’s newest efforts to lead the development of strategies to address bias and hate at their roots and to strengthen responses to hate crimes in California.

Bonta said the bureau’s implementation is “common cause against hate” and an essential way to “help bring together” various major local elected leaders to combat the resentful emotional response to certain people or ideas.

“Throughout California’s history, too many of us have felt the sting of hate and discrimination,” said Bonta. “The fact is, no part of California is immune to hate. Too many Asian, Latino, Black, Native American, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh Californians all across the state are hurting. It’s going to take all of us working together to take on bias and hate and their toxic effects on our society.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported late in 2020 that the number of hate crimes varied from state to state, with California reporting the highest number at 1,221 bias-motivated crimes. More than 800 of those were categorized as crimes against people.

The criminal offenses in California were motivated by bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, gender identity, religion, disability or sexual orientation, the FBI reported.

Nationally, the FBI discovered that there were approximately 4,930 victims of race-ethnicity-ancestry motivated hate crimes among single-bias incidents in 2019. Additionally, 48.5% were victims of crimes driven by offenders’ anti-Black or anti-African American bias across the country.

Xavier Beccerra, whom Bonta replaced as A.G., also was fierce in tracking down hate-crime offenders during his tenure. But Bonta said he is going to clamp down on the crimes a little tighter.

Given the recent rise in reported hate crimes and incidents against members of the Asian Pacific Islander community in particular, Bonta is recommitting the DOJ to further engage with communities across the state to identify pathways for better serving the needs of all those facing hate.

The RJB will initially bring six new attorneys and a supervising deputy attorney general to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section to help tackle some of California’s most pressing racial and social justice issues head-on.

“We must recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to better serve the needs of all Californians. All of our communities deserve to be seen, to be valued, and to be protected,” Bonta said.

Bonta is scheduled to host a virtual conference with California Big City Mayors, a coalition of mayors from the state’s 13 largest cities, at the end of the month. The event will help increase information sharing and work to identify new, innovative solutions for tackling shared challenges, as well as highlight existing regional resources and actionable steps that can be taken by all Californians to fight back against hate.

“The mayors of California’s 13 largest cities look forward to working with Attorney General Bonta to combat hate crimes and discrimination in every form,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, chair of the Big City Mayors. “It will take all of us standing up for our wonderfully diverse community members to make California a welcome home for all.”

Bonta also said he urges people of all backgrounds to consider a career at DOJ and learn more about joining the RJB team by visiting .gov/careers.