Black celebrities raise the focus on hate speech

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By McKenzie Jackson

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — When hip hop icon and fashion designer Kanye West wore a black, long-sleeved shirt with “White Lives Matter” emblazoned on the backside in white block letters at his Yeezy fashion show in Paris last month, it started a national conversation on racism that intensified four days later when West broadcast on Twitter that he was going to go “death con 3 On Jewish People” in a since deleted tweet.

Then, on Oct. 27, NBA player Kyrie Irving posted a link on Twitter to the 2018 film “Hebrew to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” and shared a screenshot on Instagram of the film’s rental page on Amazon. The film, directed by Ronald Dalton Jr., who also wrote a 2014 book under the same name, contains antisemitic tropes disparaging Jewish people. The film also claims the Holocaust never happened.

Irving was suspended for several games by the Brooklyn Nets for refusing to say he has no antisemitic beliefs and Nike suspended his shoe contract. Irving has apologized for his social media actions and discussions on biased hate in the U.S. have been heightened.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said that Irving was in the wrong.

“Me, personally, I don’t condone any hate of any kind,” James told the media Nov. 6. “To any race. To Jewish communities, to Black communities, to Asian communities.”

But hated — particularly racial hatred is real.

According to the FBI, more than 10,000 people nationally reported to law enforcement in 2021 that they were victims of hate crimes because of their race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion or disability.

Hate is on the rise in California. There has been a 6% increase in hate crimes and hate incidents in Orange County from 2020 to last year.

Data compiled by Crosstown at USC, a nonprofit news organization based at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, showed that during the first six months of the year, 349 hate crimes were reported to the Los Angeles Police Department, a 16.7% increase from the same period last year.

The number is more than double the amount reported in the first six months of 2020, according to Crosstown, which cited LAPD records.

Hate crimes in the first six months of the year most often targeted the Black community, with 91 reports, according to Crosstown. The next closest target was the Hispanic/Latino community, with 43 such reports, and the Jewish community at 39.

According to the data, May saw the most hate crimes reported to the LAPD at 78, and 71 more in June — the two highest monthly totals ever recorded in Los Angeles. Crosstown noted that in the three years prior to the pandemic, an average of 20 to 40 hate crimes were reported monthly.

Hate crimes are defined by the LAPD as any instance in which a victim is targeted based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but legally protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. A hate crime is an illegal action committed against an individual, group, or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group.

A report released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta in June revealed hate crimes inspired by racism and homophobia resulted in a 33% uptick in reported incidents in the state in 2021.

Hate crimes against Blacks were the most prevalent, according to the state report. There were 513 crimes committed against Blacks in 2021, 13% more than the 456 in 2020. Overall, there were 1,763 crimes reported in 2021. Crimes spurred by sexual orientation bias jumped from 205 in 2020 to 303 in 2021.

Crimes involving religion bias increased from 180 in 2020 to 218 last year. Crimes involving a gender bias decreased to 54 in 2021 from 62 in 2020.

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2282, meant to crack down on hate crimes and protect minority communities in California. The bill equalizes and strengthens penalties for using hate symbols and bolsters security for targeted religious and community-based nonprofits.

“California will not tolerate violence terrorizing any of our communities, and this measure updates state law to punish the use of universally recognized symbols of hate equally and to the fullest extent of the law,” Newsom said. “California will continue to lead the fight to stamp out hate and defend those under attack for who they are, how they identify, or what they believe in.”

The legislation brings parity to penalties for burning crosses and using swastikas and nooses. Using a noose as a hate symbol currently has the lightest penalty of the three while cross burning is the most highly penalized. People who use any of the three symbols of hate will be subject to the strongest of these criminal penalties under the signed bill.

Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), the bill’s author, said hate symbols are violent and terrifying. Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of the California Conference for Equality and Justice in Long Beach, said racism and bigotry are big problems in California.

His organization battles prejudice via workshops and trainings in schools, and with its restorative youth diversion program, meant to be an alternative to the juvenile justice system.

“CCEJ’s work with young people is key,” Carroll said. “It creates a generation of people who know how important it is for us all to fight bias, bigotry, and racism. No matter what age, no matter what race, etc. We have to all be in this together because the problem is too pervasive.”

The city of Los Angeles was rocked last month when a secretly recorded tape of a conversation between Latino officials a year earlier was leaked. City Council President Nury Martinez and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera both resigned from their positions once the tape was made published. Two other Latino council members, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León were censured by their council colleagues as their constituents demanded they resign also.

Some of the remaining council members have called for the council to form a Truth and Reconciliation Committee that would convene over the course of at least a year to “explore and document racialized, ethnic or political violence specific to a Los Angeles context to inform healing and reconciliation.”

The concept was presented in the form of a motion by City Council members Monica Rodriguez, Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Heather Hutt. The committee would present recommendations for council action 30 days after the end of its term.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said hate crime numbers could get higher in the second half of the year, thanks in part to the recent election, which ramped up divisive rhetoric.

“Generally, if you take the last 10 years of FBI data and you rank by quarter, the second half of the year is the one that has more hate crimes,” Levin said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than half of all hate crimes are actually reported to police, with some victims wary of interacting with law enforcement.

 

This story was provided by California Black Media. City News Service also contributed to it.

 

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