AAPI organizations, hate crime survivors urge Newsom to approve $210-M budget for community

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

THE California Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus (APILC), Stop AAPI Hate, the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs, and more than 150 community organizations are urging Governor Gavin Newsom to approve the $210 million API Equity Budget to support the AAPI community.

The budget, proposed by the APILC, is divided into three categories: direct response, long-term approaches, and administration and programming.

“Governor Newsom, this is a do-or-die situation,” Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President Carl Chan said in a press conference on Tuesday, June 15.

The direct response category of the budget will allocate $109.5 million to victim services and prevention including legal services, health care, mental health, victim’s compensation, or counseling.

Meanwhile, $20 million will be allocated to culture and economic development to revitalize Chinatowns, Japantowns, Koreatowns, and Little Manilas to beautify areas, create cultural monuments, and notify local businesses of existing grant programs. According to Assemblymember David Chiu, business in the San Francisco Chinatown has dropped by 50% since the pandemic.

Another $20 million will be used for schools, including a restorative justice pilot program that creates safe spaces for API students and staff to report hate incidents and microaggressions, higher education attainment that funds education attainment and mental health services needs for low-income and first-generation college students, and a peer social media network to connects Californian students.

Hate crime survivors have spoken about the urgency of the plan, like 16-year-old Chinese American Millie Liao.

Liao, a high school student in the Los Angeles Unified School District, said she has experienced anti-Asian hate since she can remember, sharing heartbreaking stories of her and her mother crying every night because kindergarteners isolating her because she could not speak English, classmates impersonating her mother at lunch, and peers making fun of her eyes.

“We can never change this part of us that people hate,” Liao said on Tuesday.

The long-term category will grant $10 million to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization created to collect data on AAPI hate incidents. $10 million will be dedicated to the Office of Racial Equity, governed by the Racial Equity Advisory and Accountability Council which focuses on advancing racial equity in state government. The California Interpreters Corps will be allocated $10 million which will allow state worker interpreters to assist limited English speakers.

Data equity will receive $10 million in order to survey AAPI experiences and social barriers. The Racial Bias Task Force will receive $500,000 which will include a 15-member group at the California Department of Justice of stakeholders like community organizations, health/mental health providers, and law enforcement that will address hate violence and propose solutions to the Governor and State Legislature.

Interpreters are critical to increase the reporting of anti-Asian incidents and hate crimes, as language and cultural barriers often prevent survivors of hate from being able to report. The underreporting of anti-Asian violence has also prevented lawmakers from addressing the problem.

AAPI community organizations like Asian Resources Inc. and Stop AAPI Hate said they know the reports they receive do not indicate the actual scale of the issue. Nguyen said she has a folder of anonymous letters from people who are “fearful for their lives” and do not want to report their incidents.

“It’s not just about the hate in the communities,” Stop AAPI Hate co-founder and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council Executive Director Manjusha Kulkarni said. “It’s about the lack of action and resources being provided. That’s why it’s so important for Governor Newsom to take action now.”

The budget, which will set $10 million for a statewide hate incidents hotline and $10 million for data equity, plans to address the underreporting of anti-Asian incidents and resources that can be provided. It will serve as a central hub for callers to access legal, health care, mental health, and law enforcement resources in language.

The administration and programming category will allocate $7 million for ethnic media outreach which will provide grant funding for ethnic media to be a safe platform for the community, and $3 million for State Library, CDE, and CDSS staffing to administer grant programs.

The budget came in response to the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes since the coronavirus pandemic, and organizations emphasized the importance of Newsom’s approval of the budget.

“I don’t want to see it anymore,” Asian Resources Inc. Executive Director Stephanie Nguyen said referring to anti-Asian violence and hate. “It needs to stop. And it can only stop if you, governor, take action.”

Legislators who have survived anti-Asian violence also said their experiences affected their career path. Chiu said his encounter of him and seven other Asian friends being attacked by white football players during his freshman year of college led him to switch his path from a pre-med student to pre-law.

“It was an inflection point for me,” Chiu said.

Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who is also a practicing pediatrician, said he was placed in a class for students with learning disabilities because he did not speak English.

“I was one of the dumb kids, as they said on the playground,” Pan said. “My classmates and I in the learning disabled class were bullied, me in particular, because I didn’t speak English at the time.”

Pan said seeing Liao, who is “a lot younger than he is,” experiencing similar experiences as him now, is “so sad.”

“That’s why we need to pass this budget,” Pan said. “Because this cannot keep going on for even more decades. I don’t want to see Millie having to share a story with another 16-year-old when she’s my age.”

Chan also spoke about how sharing his own experiences of surviving hate encouraged others to not be afraid.

“I’m excited to hear from what is being shared,” Chan said regarding the efforts speakers were taking to address the hate they have experienced. “Because we are looking into the future.”

Newsom previously allocated funds for AAPI community support, including $5 million for researching, conducting hate prevention activities, and approving grants at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.  n

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