CALIFORNIA Attorney General Rob Bonta, Congresswoman Grace Meng, and Assemblymember Evan Low spoke about the need for Asian American politicians to create inclusive legislation to protect the Asian American community.
The new attorney general announced a new Racial Justice Bureau will be created within the state’s Department of Justice to implement systemic changes within the government that include cross-cultural awareness and language access in the fight against anti-Asian hate.
Additionally, Bonta said trauma-informed care and mental health services are just some things that can be provided to those in the Asian American community who have experienced hate incidents.
“Anywhere, way, we can move the needle, we should,” Bonta said in a press conference held by the Asian Pacific American Leadership Foundation on Tuesday, May 11. “This is the time when all levels of government should work together.”
Over the last year, reported anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 149% in major cities, with 66% of the incidents being verbal harassment, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino.
However, Bonta and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) mentioned how hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) tend to be under reported and under investigated, increasing the need for institutional improvements.
Within the new Racial Justice Bureau, Bonta announced he is looking to work with mayors and law enforcement in order to address the rise in hate crimes since the start of the pandemic. Meng also mentioned the importance of the Asian American history inclusion in school curriculum.
“Asian American history is American history,” Meng said.
Microaggressions and lack of support also came from colleagues, according to Meng, referring to a House resolution Meng introduced last September condemning anti-Asian sentiment. The resolution came to a 243-164 vote, with 164 Republicans voting against the legislation.
Since January 2020, 5.38 % of social media posts mentioning Asian Americans made by U.S. lawmakers came from Republicans, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
“It was really disappointing to see our colleagues unwilling to stand up for the Asian community,” Meng said. “Asian Americans have been treated as foreigners and invisible for way too long.”
As a previous member of the state Assembly and the first Filipino American attorney general in California history, Bonta said he has also received racist messages and death threats.
“This is not new, it comes with the territory,” Bonta said. “As AAPI leaders, this is what happens.”
Other Asian American politicians, such as state Assemblymember Evan Low, also spoke about receiving racist messages and threats.
Systemic changes in laws regarding Asian Americans often have to be done by the community themselves, as Low noted.
“We always expect someone to speak up, introduce legislation,” Low said, “But there’s no cavalry coming. You are it.” (Caroline Giovanie/AJPress)