From Films To Counseling — How California Is Spending $90 Million To Fight Hate

California recently awarded $91 million in grants to local organizations that help prevent hate crimes or support survivors, part of an unprecedented effort to combat hate in a state that saw a 20% increase in such crimes in 2022.

Despite its progressive reputation, California last year reported steep increases in hate crimes against transgender people (up 55%), Muslims (up 39%) and Black people (up 27%), according to the Attorney General’s office.

That growth outpaced similar hate growth trends in 42 major cities, according to a soon to be released study by Cal State San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

The state’s latest Stop the Hate grants bring its non-law enforcement anti-hate spending to more than $200 million since 2021, more than any other state, advocates say.

The grants will go to more than 170 community groups at a time when the state is experiencing a steady clip in high-profile hate incidents — from the August murder of a Southern California store owner who flew a rainbow flag, and the recent evacuation of an Oakland elementary school after a racist bomb threat, to the fiery debates over rights of transgender students at various school boards.

California in the past year created a commission to study the state of hate and set up a hotline for people to report incidents to its Civil Rights Department. The state also put together a team of mediators to address conflicts in communities.

‘Swap meet of hate’

Both Sacramento and Los Angeles saw record levels of hate crimes in 2022, according to the study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, which independently analyzes data from local law enforcement agencies.

Researchers say that while the state’s reported hate crime numbers appear to be dipping slightly in 2023, the upcoming presidential election is likely to turn up the temperature even more.

“We are very concerned about an increase next year,” said Brian Levin, a study author and member of the 9-month-old Commission on the State of Hate. He told fellow commissioners last month: “Mainstream politics has gotten not only more tribal, but also more bigoted.”

Levin said in an interview with CalMatters that hate crimes historically rise in response to political speech and current events. But in recent years such spikes have lasted longer, such as when anti-Black crimes remained elevated months after 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests.

Social media provides “a 24-7 swap meet of hate,” he said. “We’re having a significant increase in hate crimes, and hate crimes are getting more violent. But we’re also having more reporting, particularly in certain areas.”

Hate crimes are notoriously difficult to track. Survivors often don’t report them, and local law enforcement agencies vary in how well they monitor them and how much they report to state and federal authorities.

California’s grants aim to help reduce or respond to hate crimes, and to incidents that may not rise to the level of a crime but nevertheless take a toll on an individual or community.