California DOJ's Racial Justice Bureau rollout sparks confusion

The new bureau will focus on addressing bias, hate organizations and hate crimes

California Attorney General Rob Bonta will launch the state's first Racial Justice Bureau, he announced Tuesday.

The new division of the California's Department of Justice will be comprised of six attorneys and one supervising deputy attorney. 

California is not the first to create a unit of this kind — states including Vermont, Massachusetts, and Oregon already have racial justice branches.

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Bonta says the impetus for the new bureau was the recent surge of anti-Asian hate crime. He will task the new team with addressing bias, hate organizations and hate crimes. 

But that's not all they'll do.

The bureau will assist California's Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. They will help implement "restorative justice" in the classrooms and combat "Campus Climate Issues" to make school environments more "equitable." 

The focus for now, however, will be the hate crime incidents. After all, hate crimes against Asian Americans went up 150% in 2020 alone.

One of the bureau's goals is to train law enforcement to prevent, identify and report hate crimes. Bonta told the press Wednesday, however, that he's "not hearing a lot of calls for more police to be on the street."

"Communities are rising up saying, 'We can make ourselves safer'," he said. 

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When asked about specific solutions to allay the violence, Bonta suggested a "senior escorting system" in vulnerable areas like Chinatown.

This comes just one week after two Asian women were stabbed at a bus stop in San Francisco. And the same year as an elderly Asian resident was slammed to death in an Oakland driveway.

Other solutions Bonta presented include "culturally competent services and more language access". 

This announcement comes only five days after Gov. Gavin Newsom's office was forced to reverse a directive to reduce California's driver’s license test by 25 languages, including Korean and Filipino, due to sharp criticism from the Asian American community.

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State Senator David Min from Irvine pledged to formally request that Newsom undo this directive upon receiving word of it.

"This is wrong, it’s unfair, it’s inequitable and it’s counterproductive," Min said.

Both the reversal of the DMV directive and the Racial Justice Bureau arrive amid a growing effort to recall  Newsom over his mishandling of the coronavirus.  

Newsom's recall election is likely to be held this upcoming November.