California Bill Aims to Combat the Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crime

“It’s our desire that California can once again be a trailblazer, this time in ensuring the safety and well-being of Asian Americans in the U.S.” said Manjusha Kulkarni, co-founder of the national reporting center Stop AAPI Hate.

Stop AAPI Hate received reports of more than 9,000 hate acts against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March 2020 to July 2021, approximately 40% of which happened in California, which has the country’s largest AAPI population.

Women reported two-thirds of the events, with the majority of them occurring in public places or businesses. Other customers’ racially, and often gender-based, verbal abuse was the most common kind of harassment Asian consumers faced.

California state senators have been working with Stop AAPI Hate, and have introduced two bills this Thursday that aim to combat harassment and violence against women and other vulnerable populations in public spaces, including streets and transit platforms.

The proposed bills are among the first in the country to treat street harassment and discrimination as a public health issue rather than a criminal offense.

State Senator Dave Min, D-Irvine, introduced the first bill, which seeks to protect women and other vulnerable groups of riders on transit systems, which range from slurs to intimidation and sexual assault.

The second bill, introduced by assembly members Mia Bonta, D-Oakland, and Dr. Akilah Weber, D-San Diego, and sponsored by California Healthy Nail Salon, would direct the California Department of Public Health to conduct a multiyear public education campaign to raise awareness about street harassment, accessible to residents with limited English proficiency.

Stop AAPI Hate is backing a third bill, which has yet to be introduced but focuses on another area where anti-Asian bias incidents have increased: large businesses.

The bill directs the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to create a business training resource and a pilot program that awards businesses that promote welcoming environments for all customers. Large enterprises that provide in-person service would also be required to address customer-on-customer harassment based on protected characteristics like race, ethnicity, and gender.

Kulkarni hopes that the three policy recommendations will serve as a model for other communities with large Asian populations.