Guest Commentary - As hate crimes increase, what will California do?

By Assemblymember Jim Cooper | Special to CalMatters.org |  Over the past four years, what we as California legislators have stood up for h...




By Assemblymember Jim Cooper | Special to CalMatters.org

Over the past four years, what we as California legislators have stood up for has been tested and pushed to the limits. We have always been proud of California’s progress in equality and fairness, but more importantly, we are proud of the demographics we represent, including people of color, the LGBTQ community, as well as disenfranchised and underrepresented minority groups throughout California. 

Acts of hate are not new to California or to the United States, and they are becoming more rampant. 

According to a 2019 Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations Hate Crime Report, in Los Angeles, violent acts of hate grew to the highest rate since 2008. Among the most notable increases came in violent crimes against people of Jewish descent (89%), Asian descent (32%), and persons of Middle Eastern descent (142%). In the same 2019 report, violent acts of hate against transgender persons increased 64%. 

According to the UCLA William Institute School of Law, nearly 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. Furthermore, the 9th Assembly District – portions of southern Sacramento County and northern San Joaquin County – is home to more 75,000 residents who identify as Asian Pacific Islander.  

For many Sacramentans, we know all too well the acts of hate and intolerance. In 1999, as the Sacramento County Sheriffs’ spokesperson, I responded to the horrific fire bombings of two Sacramento synagogues. The blazes were among the worst acts of anti-Semitism in U.S. history and were followed by the murders of a gay couple. More than two decades later, hate crimes have increased, not decreased. In fact, when the pandemic hit and then President Donald Trump characterized the virus as the “Kung Flu” and the “China Virus” acts of hate skyrocketed against the Asian Pacific Islander community. 

Sadly, California law considers all hate crime convictions, even felonies where the victim is injured as non-violent. This designation allows the perpetrator to take advantage of early parole opportunities, only serving a fraction of their sentence. 

The ideology of hate is that of intolerance. Hate builds up in individuals over time until that individual usually commits an act of hate. Conversely, it also takes time through proper rehabilitation to rid an individual of their hatred. In the worst cases of violence, the perpetrator needs more time for rehabilitation, not less.  

California is always at the forefront of inclusiveness and the nation counts on our leadership. Now we must choose whom we protect. Will we truly stand up for people of color and our most vulnerable targeted residents, including those who identify as Asian Pacific Islander and LGBTQ, or, will we sit idly by? 

This year, we will have the opportunity to choose. Will we protect white nationalist or will we stand up for and protect those communities whom we proudly claim to represent. My colleagues and I will have the chance when Assembly Bill 266 comes before the Legislature for a vote. 

California proudly stands up for equality for all. It is time we also stand up for those who are the victims of hate crimes. 

Assemblymember Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove, represents California’s 9th Assembly District, Assemblymember.Cooper@assembly.ca.gov. Elk Grove News is a media partner of CalMatters.org


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