(Stock photo)

According to state data released in August, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that hate crimes involving racism against Black people surged last year compared with 2021 data, including instances of violence motivated by bias.

Anti-Black or African American bias events rose from 513 in 2021 to 652 in 2022, an increase of 27.1 percent.

Though the report indicates that a growing number of hate crimes are being reported to law enforcement, many community organizations and government agencies have heard from residents that people are still hesitant to report acts of hate for a number of reasons, ranging from fear of retribution from the perpetrator, to mistrust of agencies, and more.
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In response to the rise in hate crimes, Governor Gavin Newsom, along with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD), issued a press release last May announcing the official launch of CA vs Hate, a non-emergency, multilingual hotline and website that provides a safe, anonymous reporting option for victims and witnesses of hate acts.

The purpose of the hotline is to identify options and next steps for individuals and communities targeted for hate and connect them with resources that respect their unique needs. The goal is to prevent acts of hate and to provide more resources to people in impacted communities. Kevin Kish directs the CRD.

This chart indicates that Blacks are the most targeted victims of hate crimes. (Taskforce)

“We know that hate crimes have historically been underreported across the country. Whether it’s because of distrust of law enforcement, fear of immigration consequences, confusion about whether something can be reported, language access issues, or concern that nothing will be done, there is a lot that can get in the way of people getting support when they’ve been targeted for hate,” said Kish.

“Through CA vs Hate, we’re taking direct targeted steps to address these types of barriers to reporting. Bottom line  – a hotline only helps when people feel comfortable using it,” he noted.

Sophie Cuevas handles frontline calls from people reporting incidents of hate for the anti-hate program LA vs. Hate, and connects them to supportive services such as counseling, legal services, and mediation.

“Many people I talk to don’t realize how reporting can help those who come after you. I tell them, ‘I understand your concern and your fear. But there could be someone behind you that is enduring a similar situation, and by reporting, you can help those who come after you,’” she said.

Ariel Bustamante of the Los Angeles LGBT Center added, “It is critical that providers are clear about their capabilities and limitations and work to bridge gaps in their agency’s capacity to serve LGBTQ+ folks and BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color).

“Agencies should also be versed in providing appropriate referrals. This can relieve the fear an individual may have based on personal or historical experiences with law enforcement while reinforcing their dignity and autonomy,” she observed.

The California DOJ has collected and reported data on hate crimes since 1995, while the CRD is charged with enforcing civil rights laws that include hate violence. A hate crime refers to “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Hate incidents are racial slurs or other kinds of derogatory speech, which are protected by the first amendment, and not crimes.

For more information, visit CAvsHATE.org.