The City Council affirmed its commitment to fostering a city that is inclusive of its diversity this week, unequivocally condemning a national surge in hateful rhetoric and violence toward Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in a resolution.
The condemnation was issued a week after a 21-year-old white man killed eight people in a shooting spree in Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were Asian women. That tragedy followed a year in which Asian and Pacific Islander residents across the country have reported a rise in harassment and attacks by others, a trend corresponding to the coronavirus’ origins in China. In recent months, these attacks have grown increasingly violent and deadly.
“I know many are disheartened by the recent acts of terror and violence but we must not be deterred in our efforts as Americans to demand better from our leaders,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said Tuesday, “whether it’s on mental health or sensible background checks for guns or to do the hard work in ensuring that we have a society that is not only tolerant but accepting and embracing of our differences that make each of us unique as Americans.”
Kassakhian acknowledged that a resolution amounts to little more than a statement while also emphasizing the importance of a city organization and its elected officials to be supportive of its residents. According to a 2019 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.2% of Glendale’s residents are Asian, while 0.1% are “Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.” (It should be noted that these are estimates of residents reporting one race; the estimate of bi- or multi-racial residents is 3.4%.)
In making the statement, Kassakhian said it won’t solve the problem but it will help set the tone.
“I wish it was that simple,” he said, “but I do believe that this is important to show our AAPI community here in the city that we stand up, stand with them and will not tolerate those who denigrate them or any other minority group.”
The staff report for the resolution cited data from Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition formed after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, indicating that since March 2020 there have been more than 2,800 documented cases of hate incidents targeting Asian- and Pacific Islander-Americans. (AAPI is a common abbreviation for Asian-American and Pacific Islander.) From March through 2020 last year, more than 800 of those were reported in California. Nearly 9% of these reports were of physical attacks.
Additionally, a report released this month by the Center for the Study of Hate at Cal State San Bernardino reported that hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans rose by nearly 150% in the nation’s 16 largest cities, in spite of reported hate crimes overall decreasing by 7% in those locales. In Los Angeles, 15% of the hate crimes in 2020 targeted Asian-Americans, after representing 7% of the reports in 2019.
Councilwoman Paula Devine, who joined Kassakhian in asking for the resolution earlier this month, referenced on Tuesday a more recent slogan — “hate is a virus” — in condemning the tragedy and its associated acts.
“It is so sad to hear about all these hate crimes and what has become of some segments of our society,” she said.
Councilman Dan Brotman, who for years lived in East Asia, noted that last week’s tragedy has hit close to home for him because his two children are
“I know that it affects all of us in different ways and different levels,” he said.
Tuesday’s resolution follows a similar resolution adopted by the Glendale Unified School District this month, prior to the Atlanta killings, in which the district and school board that they stand in solidarity with the community. In a statement, the district affirmed its commitment to working to eliminate structural bias and foster inclusivity throughout its schools, whose student body reflects similar demographics to the city.
“In Glendale Unified School District, we are working intentionally to eliminate racism and bias in our curricula, our classroom cultures, and our relationships with our students, our parents/guardians, and each other,” Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said in a statement. “Our schools will continue to be safe spaces where every child can learn and thrive.”
GUSD’s dual immersion foreign language program includes Korean and Japanese among its offerings.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Kassakhian explained that part of the reason he felt so strongly about the resolution was because last year, shortly after the pandemic began, there emerged a viral video of a Korean family in La Crescenta being harassed with coronavirus-themed insults on the street. To any would-be detractors, he said he’d rather do without their political support in the future.
“If you are among those that thinks that our city is being brought down by all of the immigrants who live here, you are the problem, not the immigrants,” Kassakhian said.