SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act signed by President Joe Biden addresses trends that the local Asian American and Pacific Islander community has had to deal with over the past year, but it’s still unclear whether that will be enough to reduce incidents of hate.
Karun Yee was waiting for her ride at Arden Fair Mall about six weeks ago when she was attacked.
“All of a sudden, he ran up and took a swing at me and hit me in the ear and the face, and I staggered back,” she explained.
The Stop AAPI Hate organization reports that nearly half of all Asian American hate incidents are reported from California, with over 3,000 in the past year amid the pandemic. Those include anti-Asian remarks, refusal of service, vandalism and violence.
Local AAPI leaders said the signing of Thursday’s bill is a first step.
“I’m glad that the federal government is stepping up,” said Sacramento City Councilwoman Mai Vang. “I mean, one, they’re acknowledging that this is happening, that the trauma and the harm is real.”
The issue with hate crime reporting and prosecutions over the years is the definition of what makes up a racially motivated hate crime.
Yee said she does not know why she was attacked.
But the bill’s reporting provisions can detail trends, if not the causes.
“Yes, I think you have to have that awareness,” Yee explained. “The incidents rate is so high and many times people are not even reporting it.”
Focusing on Asian hate crimes is different from stopping them. Perpetrators often do not express their intentions and vandals often do not leave evidence of their motivation, which makes it tough to charge or convict someone for a hate crime.
Some want grant money in the bill to go to community-based education and prevention efforts.
“Doubling down on punishment and law enforcement hasn’t worked, right? And we need prevention and tangible solutions that actually invest in our communities,” Vang said.
Yee said the bill brings attention to the problem but may not solve it.
“But I hope that they’re going to do something more than just focus on it,” she told FOX40. “I think I would really like to see more people thrown in jail for it.”