Starting next winter, California will have two days every January to think about ways to end hate crimes.
That’s because the state Legislature in March added a “Stand Against Hate Action Day” to the January calendar, just two weeks after the Martin Luther King holiday, honoring the pastor and orator who always worked to lessen hate.
The new commemoration was adopted unanimously, on bipartisan votes of 77-0 in the Assembly and 38-0 in the state Senate.
But there’s no sign just talking about ending hate and hate crimes will do much about the problem. That will take action, not mere talk.
For a new FBI report recorded nearly 10,500 hate crimes nationally in 2021, the latest year for which full statistics are available, with 1,767 in California.
That jibes with figures from the Anti-Defamation League showing hate crimes of all kinds were up about 30% in California in 2022, compared with 2021.
These crimes don’t even include this year’s shootings of Orthodox Jewish men outside synagogues in Los Angeles and frequent attacks on both Blacks (victimized in about 30% of hate crimes) and Asian-Americans, who often feel threatened when out in public.
One reason for this is the sad fact that bigotry and racism and anti-Semitism over the last seven years became “cool” topics on the internet, with message boards and YouTube videos and dark web entries urging white male violence against minorities now commonplace.
It can be argued that a lot of this stems from de facto legitimization of prejudice on college and university campuses nationwide.
This is perhaps best documented by the thorough studies of the AMCHA Initiative, which documents hatred toward Jews on campuses.
Jews make up just 2% of the populace, but have been targeted lately in more than half of all religious hate crimes, more than the total against Sikhs, Roman Catholics, Buddhists and others who are also sometimes targeted.
Jewish students have been singled out on California campuses and nationwide, pressured by threats of violence to leave student body offices to which they were elected and intimidated from wearing Star of David necklaces they once sported proudly.
They are not obvious from their skin color, but are targeted for having “Jewish” names, or because they defend Israel’s right to exist, even as many of them object to major policies of today’s Israeli government.
If California is serious about fighting hate, and not just making symbolic gestures like the new Stand Against Hate day, its government might take a few actions that have long been authorized.
For example, almost 10 years ago, University of California regents voted to ban anti-Semitism from their campuses.
But when many Berkeley Law School student groups voted to exclude speakers from their group events if they did not oppose the existence of Israel as the world’s only Jewish homeland, the school’s actively Jewish dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, stood by despite conceding those bans would cover him, too.
The students who carry out and respect this plainly anti-Semitic rule will soon be practicing law.
Will they and their immediate predecessors and other fellow students, essentially taught anti-Semitism while in school, continue anti-Semitic practices after graduation?
In February, UCLA hosted students from 200 college chapters of the national Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that promotes the slogan “From the River to the Sea” originated with help from Middle East terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, both financed by Iran’s extreme Islamist government.
The slogan essentially calls for removal or massacre of all Israelis, the vast majority of them Jews.
Why is such a group allowed to stage its national meeting on the UCLA campus, in publicly funded facilities where regents officially banned anti-Semitism almost a decade ago?
Why are UC and California State University faculty allowed to use state-owned facilities and email accounts to promote the boycott, divest and sanction movement against Israel that was originated by Hamas?
The answer so far is that few dare confront them, in the mistaken belief this would somehow violate academic freedom.
But bigotry has never been part of legitimate academics.
The bottom line: As long as California allows promotion of prejudice on its campuses and elsewhere, days of “action” against hate will be empty gestures.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected].