Gov. Gavin Newsom joined local Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders in San Francisco on Friday to discuss and condemn the recent violent acts committed against Asian people both in the city and across the country.
Speaking at the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, Newsom, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and others called for an end to what Chiu called "the most significant anti-Asian set of attacks that we have experienced in our lifetime."
The joint briefing came just three days after eight people - six of them Asian women - were killed in shootings at three different spas in the Atlanta area.
Across the Bay Area, multiple hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have been reported over the last year, particularly attacks on elderly people without provocation.
Those attacks have resulted in several deaths, including an 84-year-old Thai American man in San Francisco in January and a 75-year-old Asian man in Oakland last week.
According to the San Francisco-based nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate, which operates a reporting center for racist, discriminatory and xenophobic acts against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, 3,795 incidents were reported across the country between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021.
That total likely represents just a fraction of anti-Asian racism incidents since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the group.
Roughly 1,700 of the reported hate crimes occurred in California, according to Cynthia Chen, the co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, one of Stop AAPI Hate's founding partners.
"We are asking for a whole of society and whole of government response," Chen said Friday. "We have schools reopening where parents are fearful that their children will be bullied. We have private businesses that are fearful that if they are Asian-owned and have primarily Asian employees, will they be targeted.
"The fact that we have so many vulnerable members of our community that feel unsafe being in public spaces, that should be a concern for not just the Asian American community but to everyone," she said.
Last July, the Pew Research Center found that 31 percent of Asian Americans reported being the target of racial slurs or jokes since the pandemic began.
Nearly 70 percent of the incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate were verbal while women and non-men reported hate incidents at twice the rate of men.
Newsom credited growing up in San Francisco for his appreciation and respect for the Asian American community; roughly one-third of the city's population is of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, according to 2018 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
"The idea that we are, today in 2021, still having conversations we were having in 1881, a year before the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1881, is painful and infuriating at the same time," Newsom said. "What the hell is wrong with us?"
Hate crimes and other racist and xenophobic harassment can be reported to Stop AAPI Hate as well as the California Department of Justice, which offers brochures in 14 languages on how to identify and report a hate crime.
"The community members here really have decades of experience in this that reflect the anguish of our community, the frustration of our community, the fears of our community and how we are all, at this moment, compelled to act," Chiu said. "We must do more."