Hate crimes in Orange County once again increased in 2020, with a massive surge in hate incidents toward the county’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community, according to a new report released Friday by the OC Human Relations Commission.

The commission presented its report Friday virtually on Zoom to share the findings with the community.

“We produced this report in an effort to raise awareness about hate with the intent of finding solutions in combating hate and bigotry in our communities,” Nhi Nguyen, a hate crime prevention coordinator with the commission, said during the presentation.

Handling Hate

This story is part of an ongoing series exploring concrete steps Orange County leaders can take to tackle racial justice and hate across the region, amid a recent spike in hate incidents across the county and U.S. during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nguyen said the report is not necessarily the full picture of hate activity in the county.

“For every case that is reported, there are many incidents in our communities that remain unreported,” she said, adding not everyone in the community feels safe reporting such incidents.

~ Read the report here ~

One hundred and twelve hate crimes and 263 hate incidents were reported in Orange County in 2020. 

This is an increase from 2019, when there were 83 reported hate crimes and 156 reported hate incidents.

A June 2020 demonstration at the Irvine Civic Center during the series of George Floyd protests in Orange County. Credit: ABEL JAYE MANANSALA, Voice of OC

The most commonly reported hate crimes in 2020 were toward Black people, according to the report.

Despite African Americans making up around 2% of the population in the county, Nguyen said the community in particular has continued to be a target of hate and violence.

Hate crimes toward African Americans went up 88% from 2019 to 2020, according to Nguyen.

Sixteen hate crimes toward Black people in the county were reported in 2019 and 30 in 2020.

[Read: Black People Account for 2% of Orange County’s Population Yet Were Targeted Most for Hate Crimes]

Douglas Haynes, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion at University of California, Irvine, also spoke about the issue during the presentation.

“It’s just distressing to see that year over year, the Black community in Orange County is disproportionately among the victims of hate incidents, and certainly crimes,” he said.

Haynes said education plays an important part in responding to such hate activity.

“We need to learn more about each other so that we can better appreciate what these incidents and crimes mean ​​but more than that, there are opportunities to learn about tools, tools for reporting, tools for self protection, tools for being an authentic ally,” he said.

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The second most reported hate crimes were geared toward the Jewish population, with 94 hate incident reports of anti-semitism.

“For many years, the Jewish community has also been one of the communities that has been impacted by many of the hate activities reported in Orange County. It’s also important to highlight the long term historical impacts of anti semitism, the impacts of the Holocaust and the six million lives that were lost for the identities they held,” Nguyen said.

In the past year, Orange County’s Jewish community leaders have condemned some of the remarks made by residents at public meetings during which speakers often times compared vaccines and other pandemic protocols to the Holocaust. 

[Read: OC Jewish Community Calls For An End On Comparing Coronavirus Vaccine to Holocaust]

Hate crimes are not targeting just religion and race.

Eleven percent of the total hate crimes in 2020 were against people in the LGBTQ+ community and Nguyen said hate activities are under-reported in that community.

Residents, community members and city staff gathered on March 19 in Irvine to address the recent uptick in Asian hate crimes. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has experienced a surge of hate against members across the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over 9,080 incidents of violence and hate nationally were reported between March 19, 2020 to June 30, 2021, according to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, a group that launched in 2020.

In Orange County, hate incidents targeting the Asian community have gone up by about 1,800% in the past year, according to the OC hate crime report. 

In 2020, 76 hate incidents were reported related to anti-Asian discrimination while for the past decade each year there had been on average four to five anti-Asian hate related reports, Nguyen said.

Nguyen said some of those reported incidents were motivated by COVID-19 anti-Asian rhetoric.

“Community members have been told to go back home and blamed for bringing COVID,” she said.

[Read: OC Asian-American Community Leader Says Hate Crimes Spike During COVID-19 Surges]

Priscilla Huang, founding executive director of the Center for Asian Americans in Action, a nonprofit policy organization, said at the presentation that the abrupt escalation of violence and hate toward Asian Americans has had a huge impact on the community.

She said a lot of the incidents took place near people’s homes and have triggered traumatic memories of loved ones who have experienced such hate in the past.

“It’s been a very difficult year for a lot of Asian Americans. I think we’ve seen as part of the response to that a huge surge in requests for mental health services that quite frankly a lot of the community based organizations can’t keep up with. There are long waiting lists,” Huang said.

She said her organization worked with members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors Lisa Bartlett and Andrew Do on a resolution condemning anti-Asian hate with language to elicit a series of listening sessions convened by the Human Relations Commission.

“We very much see that the solution to preventing anti-Asian hate is the same solution that is needed to prevent anti-Black violence and anti-semitism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination and we wanted all stakeholders from all of these groups involved and so that’s written deliberately into that resolution language,” Huang said.

Irvine residents and community members hold signs on March 19, 2021 calling to Stop Asian Hate outside Irvine City Hall. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

In response to the uptick of hate toward Asian Americans, officials from several cities in the county also passed resolutions condemning the incidents.

​​Some local cities like Irvine have created multi-language online portals to report hate crimes.

[Read: Community Calls to Stop Asian Hate Continue in Orange County in Wake of Atlanta Killings]

Earlier this year, rallies, vigils and news conferences calling for an end of the violence and hatred geared toward the community were a regular occurrence in Orange County.

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Even before the pandemic, hate crimes were spiking in Orange County in recent years.

According to the report released Friday, hate crimes have been steadily on the rise for the last five years.

In California, hate crime events are at their highest levels in more than a decade, increasing by 31% from 2019 to 2020, according to a report from state Attorney General Rob Bonta earlier this year.

[Read: Hate Crimes Increase Throughout California and OC, According to New State Report]

Bonta also released a special report earlier this year showing a 107% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes from 2019 to 2020 and a 125% increase in violent hate crimes against the community across the state.

In California and locally, government agencies are looking to crack down on hate crimes in response to those numbers.

Earlier this year, Bonta announced the creation of the Racial Justice Bureau in the state’s Department of Justice intended to put a greater focus on hate crimes against the public.

In Orange County, the District Attorney’s Office created a new unit dedicated to prosecuting people accused of hate crimes.

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Amid all of this, some in the county have favored support of teaching ethnic studies classes to high schoolers as a way to address and tackle hate in the community while others view the classes as divisive.

These courses are designed to teach the history, the culture, the plight and the contributions of people of color in America.

Some school districts are moving forward with those classes despite pushback from some parents.

Last month, the Orange County Human Relations Commission in a press release endorsed ethnic studies classes being taught at K-12 schools and being required for high school students.

To report a hate crime, you can email the commission at reporthate@ochumanrelations.org, call 714-480-6580 or submit a report online at ochumanrelations.org/hatecrime/report.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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