Seeing a pandemic of hate crimes and racist comments leveled at Orange County supervisors at public meetings, county officials have reported in recent months that the region’s anti-hate public organization could be shot at.
The Orange County Human Relations Commission may be poised to dramatically increase its resources and funding – strengthening its services and outreach – to monitor and combat hate in the county on a larger scale and in new ways.
New services could include a hate crime reporting mobile app, increased capacity for the commission to collect reports and track victims in their own language, a call center and hotline, as well as a hate crime tracking database in the county, according to an official and proposed list of deliverables.
A new plan and contract for the commission’s expanded work around hateful activity could be submitted to the board of supervisors for a vote at its Oct. 19 meeting, according to county supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
The commission has for years facilitated anti-hate programs in schools, community forums and listening sessions, as well as annual hate crime reports for the region – efforts that supervisors have historically undermined, often by contradiction with the evolution of the group’s positions on social justice.
In the mid-2000s, years of supervisory budget cuts forced the commission to travel from town to town across the county asking for money to fill what the county did not want.
According to a 2004-2005 report by the Orange County grand jury, OC employees and human relations advocates wrote letters – and then follow-up letters – to every city council in the county asking for funding to continue its job.
Fast forward to this year.
âYou come to my country, and you act like one of these Communist parasites, I ask you to go back to Vietnam,â said a man who identified himself as Tyler Durden – a fictional character from the movie Fight Club – during a supervisors meeting on July 27 during public comments.
The speaker addressed his “comeback” comment to supervisor Andrew Do, a refugee whose family fled Vietnam, and drew cheers from several audience members in the meeting rooms.
Local officials – and the county’s two main political parties – condemned the speaker’s July 27 comments online in the days that followed.
This month, the Human Relations Commission released its report for the year 2020, which showed a 35% increase in the number of people reporting hate crimes and a 69% increase in people reporting hate-motivated incidents. compared to the previous year, 2019.
In March, when supervisors voted to release statements denouncing a national spike in racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were the scapegoats for the COVID-19 virus.
Activists and community leaders at the time, however, pointed to several long-standing obstacles to the only organization that could actively tackle the issues for which supervisors were issuing resolutions.
For example, the commission still does not have the resources to help some people report hate crimes or incidents in their own language.
Additionally, cities are not required to share their data with the commission, so the group chooses not to organize the data by city for fear that this will discourage city participation.
Bartlett, at an Aug. 24 supervisors meeting where the board voted to extend the term of the commission’s current $ 189,000 contract, asked the commission to consider ways to expand its funding. .
“Timing is of the essence,” Bartlett said at the August 24 meeting. âTime is running out to get things done. ”
On September 21, she told a Voice of OC reporter via text message, âI had heard that (the Human Relations Commission) would submit a plan to the county on October 19.
“It took way too long just to get there and I want to see progress and a plan of action,” Bartlett said via text, adding that it was not clear what exactly the proposed dollar amount would be. of the new contract.
“If the commission got an increase in funding, some of the things that could be accomplished would be the expansion of language services, which would be a top priority for both translation and interpretation,” said Alison Lehmann Edwards , CEO of OC Human Relations. Council, the commission’s official partner group and fundraising arm, in an interview on September 9.
Edwards said “We would not only be able to receive reports in other languages, but we would also have more support services in the language, which would include the basics of outreach and support to those who have. been targeted and affected by hatred in the county. ”
âWe could also use more sophisticated software to track and analyze the data we collect, and increase the membership of the commission,â added Edwards.
The grand jurors of Orange County, in their 2004-2005 report on the state of the lack of resources of the commission, insisted on the importance of the work of the group.
Based on interviews with civil servants across the county, grand jurors determined that one of Orange County’s latest attempts to resolve social disputes in the area was in the hands of the commission. :
“Those human relations problems that existed when the supervisory board created the commission still exist.”
More than a decade later, that feeling has not changed for some locals.
At the August 24 meeting, a speaker named Cricket Jamet said the commission “strengthens the social fabric of our county … the values ââhave come to fruition through the commission’s anti-hate initiatives.”
Jamet said she was related to the Unified School District of Capistrano and worked as a lawyer and youth leadership advisor “in a wide range of multicultural community organizations, including Women for American Values ââand Ethics ( WAVE) “.
âIn each of these roles, I have seen first-hand the impact of the OC Human Relations Commission in helping diverse communities discover commonalities to resolve conflict,â said Jamet. “Yet, as Orange County diversifies, hate crimes are still on the rise here.”