Violent hate crimes in the U.S. reached a 16-year high in 2018, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Hate crimes are defined as criminal offenses against a person (or property), motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.

Sadly, racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans are occurring with greater frequency as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The increase is assumed to be because the virus originated in China, and some people are wrongly placing blame for its existence and spread on random persons who appear to be of any Asian descent.

Innocent young people, seniors, business owners, families, and even some of the brave healthcare workers battling on the frontlines have encountered incidents of harassment and physical violence.

According to data from the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), the majority of the growing number of incidents have occurred in California and New York. In fact, more than 1,700 hate crime incident reports were submitted to the Los Angeles County-based group as of May 13.

If these attacks are not appalling enough, California law doesn’t consider hate crimes to be violent crimes. Seriously.

Now, really let that sink in.

A person is violently assaulted with a baseball bat because they’re Asian American. NOT VIOLENT in California.

A person’s house is shot at or set on fire because they’re African American. NOT VIOLENT in California.

A store is bombed because its owners are Russian immigrants. NOT VIOLENT in California.

It’s just semantics, you say. But it’s not. These are real people being assaulted, and how we define a crime makes a big difference when it comes to consequences and justice.

For example, in February, a sixteen-year-old student in Los Angeles county was assaulted by a group of other teens after being accused of having the coronavirus because he is Asian American. And in March, a 12-year-old boy was punched in the head 20 times at his LA middle school simply for being Asian American.

Most residents might presume our legal system has the necessary strength to appropriately punish these kinds of crimes. They’re wrong. Because these crimes are considered “non-violent,” the perpetrators could be eligible not only for zero bail, but early release under state law.

All of this is having a very real effect on our communities. In March, Governor Newsom granted the early release of 3,500 “non-violent” inmates in order to reduce overcrowding. This is serious cause for concern. How many truly violent offenders will slip by due to the deficiencies within our laws?

Fortunately, this November California voters will have the chance to set things right. The “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2020” will reclassify hate crimes — and a number of other heinous felonies — as “violent.” This is a vital step not only for our justice system, but to combat racism and violence.

Hate crimes hurt everyone. Please support the Keep California Safe initiative and support justice for all.

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