CA Policy Recommendation to Address AAPI Hate
More than 9,000 acts of hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Many more incidents continue to go unreported, making the actual number much higher.
California leads all states in the number of hate incidents by a wide margin, with over 3,500 hate incidents or 38.6 percent of all reports. The vast majority of hate incidents against AAPIs involve conduct that is not criminal, such as verbal harassment, and take place in person and in spaces open and accessible to the public, such as streets and sidewalks, businesses, public transit, and parks. Hate incidents reported by women make up nearly two-thirds of all reports in the state, and a majority of these reports are accounts of verbal harassment or name calling, including sexist slurs, in public.
A single act of hate is one act of hate too many. To stop AAPI hate, and harm in all communities of color, we offer as a starting point the following policy recommendations to the California State Legislature for the 2021-2022 legislative session:
A. Create a public health and gender-based approach to prevent hate in public spaces, including the street harassment of AAPI women and other vulnerable communities. Street harassment impacts an individual’s mobility, feeling of safety, freedom of movement, and physical and mental well-being, yet exists largely unchecked in the United States and on the periphery of public policy solutions.
- Create a legislative policy framework for preventing street harassment faced by AAPI women and other vulnerable communities. The framework should define street harassment and employ a multiyear, multifaceted public education campaign that treats street harassment as serious, harmful, and not to be tolerated in any setting — just as gender and race-based harassment is not tolerated in work or educational settings.
- Require a gender-based approach to rider safety on public transit. The Legislature should condition state transit assistance funding to LA Metro, Muni, and BART on collecting data to understand the safety needs of female riders over the whole journey, and developing and implementing a gender action plan to address these needs.
- Direct California’s public health agency to lead a statewide effort to prevent and respond to hate in public spaces.
B. Strengthen California’s civil rights protections to prevent and respond to hate at businesses. A third of hate incidents in the state take place at businesses, usually retail or service establishments, such as grocery stores and restaurants. Most incidents are committed against customers by other customers or third parties.
1. Protect customers from bias-based discrimination and harassment at businesses frequented by the public, such as stores and restaurants. State law already protects customers from discrimination by businesses, and should explicitly protect customers from harassment at businesses — even if perpetrated by non-employees like other customers.
2. Require businesses frequented by the public to train employees on their responsibilities to customers. Employees should know and understand their responsibility to maintain a space free from bias-based harassment and discrimination, even if perpetrated by other customers.
3. Create a pilot program that recognizes businesses frequented by the public for creating safe and welcoming spaces.
These recommendations are a starting, not an ending, point for taking action against AAPI hate. We look forward to working with community members and policymakers on a comprehensive response to AAPI hate and the many issues impacting the well-being of AAPIs, a diverse community of over six million Asian Americans and 350,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the State of California.