By McKenzie Jackson | California Black Media
(CBM) – When hip hop icon and fashion designer Kanye West wore a black, long-sleeved shirt with “WHITE LIVES MATTER” emblazoned on the backside in white block letters at his Yeezy fashion show in Paris on Oct. 3, it started a national conversation on racism that intensified four days later when West broadcast on Twitter that he was going to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE” in a since deleted tweet.
Then, on Oct. 27, NBA player Kyrie Irving posted a link on Twitter to the 2018 film “Hebrew to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” and shared a screenshot on Instagram of the film’s rental page on Amazon. The film, directed by Ronald Dalton Jr., who also wrote a 2014 book under the same name, contains antisemitic tropes disparaging Jewish people. The film also claims the Holocaust never happened.
Irving was suspended for several games by the Brooklyn Nets for refusing to say he has no antisemitic beliefs and Nike suspended his shoe contract. Irving has apologized for his social media actions, and discussions on biased hate in the U.S. have been heightened.
Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James said on Nov. 6 that Irving was in the wrong.
“Me, personally, I don’t condone any hate of any kind,” James told the media. “To any race. To Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities.”
According to the FBI, over 10,000 people nationally reported to law enforcement in 2021 that they were victims of hate crimes because of their race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion or disability.
Hate is on the rise in California. For example, there was a 6% increase in hate crimes and hate incidents in Orange County from 2020 to last year.
Of the 398 bias-motived activities, Black people were the target of 25 incidents and 16 crimes, according to the “2021 Orange County Hate Crimes Report” released by Orange County Human Relations Council on Sept. 15.
Don Han, the Council’s director of operations, said the trend is concerning.
“Orange County has 2% African Americans in the demographic, so a very small percentage, but in terms of hate crimes they are within the top three,” Han said. “That speaks volumes for us, and that is something very intentional for us in how we support the community here in Orange County, so that people can feel that they belong.”
A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but legally protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. A hate crime is an illegal action committed against an individual, group, or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group.
Overall, there were 97 documented hate crimes in Orange County and 301 reported hate incidents a year ago. A large swath of the incidents in 2021 — 153, a 164% increase from 2020 — were against Asian/Pacific Islanders. Sixteen crimes were committed against gay men, while 26 of the crimes had an unknown bias.
The rise in hate crimes and incidents in the Southern California county is part of a broader pattern around the Golden State.
A report released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta in June revealed hate crimes inspired by racism and homophobia resulted in a 33% uptick in reported incidents in the state in 2021.
Hate crimes against Blacks were the most prevalent, according to the state report. There were 513 crimes committed against Blacks in 2021, 13% more than the 456 in 2020. Overall, there were 1,763 crimes reported in 2021. Crimes spurred by sexual orientation bias jumped from 205 in 2020 to 303 in 2021.
Crimes involving religion bias increased from 180 in 2020 to 218 last year. Crimes involving a gender bias decreased to 54 in 2021 from 62 in 2020.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2282, meant to crack down on hate crimes and protect minority communities in California, on Sept. 18. The bill equalizes and strengthens penalties for using hate symbols and bolsters security for targeted religious and community-based nonprofits.
“California will not tolerate violence terrorizing any of our communities, and this measure updates state law to punish the use of universally recognized symbols of hate equally and to the fullest extent of the law,” Newsom said. “California will continue to lead the fight to stamp out hate and defend those under attack for who they are, how they identify, or what they believe in.”
The legislation brings parity to penalties for burning crosses and using swastikas and nooses. Using a noose as a hate symbol currently has the lightest penalty of the three while cross burning is the most highly penalized. People who use any of the three symbols of hate will be subject to the strongest of these criminal penalties under the signed bill.
Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), AB 2282’s author, said hate symbols are violent and terrifying.
“With hate crimes increasing across the state, it is critical to recognize the power and destructiveness of these symbols, and restrict their use equally,” she said.
On Aug. 21 Krishnan Jayaraman, who is Indian was in a Taco Bell in Fremont when Singh Tejinder hurled anti-Hindu comments and racists slurs at him. Tejinder used the N-word several times, called Jayaraman a “dirty Hindu,” and seemingly twice spit at Jayaraman.
Tejinder, who is Asian/Indian, was charged by Fremont police with a hate crime in violation of civil rights, assault and disturbing the peace by offensive language.
Han of the OC Human Relations Council said his group attempts to prevent hate activities in the county by organizing educational programs with schools and other organizations.
“We work with different communities on hate crime prevention and on how to report a hate crime and hate incidents,” he said. “We work with law enforcement. If they are responding to a hate crime, and the victim speaks a language other than English, we are able to connect them with organizations that we partner with to make communication possible.”
Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) in Long Beach, said racism and bigotry are big problems in California.
CCEJ battles prejudice via workshops and trainings in schools, and with its restorative youth diversion program, meant to be an alternative to the juvenile justice system.
“CCEJ’s work with young people is key,” said Carroll. “It creates a generation of people who know how important it is for us all to fight bias, bigotry, and racism. No matter what age, no matter what race, etc. We have to all be in this together because the problem is too pervasive.”
Han said the best way to prevent hate activities is education and for to people get to know each other.
“We have created a safe space to have conversations, so hopefully those conversations will create common ground,” he said. “If you know someone as a person or another human being, when you truly know me and we know each other, it’s harder to have bias-motivated feelings.”
For more information on hate crimes and resources victims, visit https://oag.ca.gov/hatecrimes.
This report was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.