Essential California: Asian American life in a time of hate


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, May 13. I’m Kimi Yoshino, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

We’ve seen video after video of unprovoked attacks on Asian Americans and reports that show an alarming uptick in anti-Asian violence. One set of data, from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, found a 164% increase in Asian-related hate crimes in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period last year.

As Times reporter Anh Do wrote:

The attacks took place in schools, restaurants, stores, subways, sidewalks, fitness classes and Zoom meetings. Some involved allegations about the coronavirus, while other perpetrators used age-old racial slurs like “ching chong.”


Some victims were elderly, others children. Some were coughed on or spat on, some slapped or hit, some refused service at businesses, still others stung by racist words or by people declining to interact with them.

People hold a banner at a "Stop Asian Hate" rally.
Hundreds participated in a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in L.A.’s Koreatown in March.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

I asked Times film reporter and “Asian Enough” podcast host Jen Yamato to talk about how these events are shaping the conversations she’s having in Season 2 of The Times’ “Asian Enough” podcast, which debuted this week. “Killing Eve” actress Sandra Oh is the first guest of the season.

Q: Tell listeners what to expect in Season 2 of the podcast.

A: In our first season, my co-creator Frank Shyong and I wanted to have conversations about Asian American life that we hadn’t often heard being had, at least publicly — discussing what it means to feel not Asian “enough,” the breadth of disparate experiences that fall within the “Asian American” umbrella and the thorniness of wrangling with these existential quandaries out loud.

Our second season continues that journey — and each episode is, truly, its own emotional, historical, cultural and even generational journey — with three L.A. Times colleagues joining me as co-hosts: tech reporter Johana Bhuiyan, business reporter Suhauna Hussain and Tracy Brown, who covers entertainment. We talk to special guests from an array of backgrounds including award-winning actors, activists, authors and at least one rapper who also happens to be a scientist fighting COVID-19.

Q: How are you tackling current events with your upcoming guests, who include actress Lucy Liu, novelist Min Jin Lee and rapper Ruby Ibarra?

We started the podcast to talk about Asian American life last year right before the pandemic, and there was already plenty to discuss. Now our conversations feel even more urgent and necessary. Anti-Asian racism and xenophobia are anything but new if you’ve read up on history or know actual Asian Americans, but the alarming rise in anti-Asian hate attacks this year has been deeply traumatizing for so many of us. Finding voice, strength and healing amid this wave of hate are recurring topics of this podcast, but also important are the nuances of and connections between specific communities and experiences that we want to zero in on with our guests this season.

Q: How are you doing? This year has been a lot already.

A: I’m exhausted. Everyone I know is exhausted! There are a lot of tired folks out there trying their best to keep fighting in so many ways. Many journalists of color and journalists from marginalized communities don’t have the luxury of not engaging with their own existence to some degree every time they write a story. So I see it as a privilege to be able to cover people and topics that might otherwise be overlooked by the mainstream gaze, and to force that gaze to get with the times. That said, visibility alone does not equal necessary change. That’s where deeper conversations must lead to action, and hopefully “Asian Enough” can be a small part of that wave.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Transitional kindergarten could be offered to all California 4-year-olds by the 2024 academic year under a budget proposal unveiled by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The program is currently available to only about one-third of the state’s 4-year-olds. (Los Angeles Times)

  • The $20-billion infusion into education programs would help students most in need, particularly those who suffered learning loss during the pandemic. The state would also establish a $500 college savings account for every California student from a low-income family. (Los Angeles Times)

California could lift most mask restrictions by June 15, when the state is expected to reopen its economy, Newsom said. If the state continues to improve, outdoor mask mandates could be eliminated and become recommendations or guidelines. Indoor mandates would be eased at a later date. (Los Angeles Times)


The Hollywood Hills killing of the rising rap star Pop Smoke stunned the music world last year. New details are emerging about the brazen home invasion robbery and how police tracked down the alleged killers. (This story is exclusive to Los Angeles Times subscribers.)

Pop Smoke
Rapper Pop Smoke, 20, was shot and killed on Feb. 19, 2020, in the Hollywood Hills.
( Suzanne Cordeiro / AFP/Getty Images)

L.A.’s freeway traffic jams are infamous, as is the stereotype that nobody walks or takes public transportation. But maybe it’s the political gridlock that’s keeping the city from solving its transit woes. (Capital and Main)

Kobe Bryant will be inducted posthumously into the NBA Hall of Fame this weekend. He was an inspiration to players around the world. (Los Angeles Times)

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Vice President Kamala Harris has made no plans to visit the southern border and there’s a growing sentiment among Republicans — as well as some Democrats, nonpartisan policy experts and pro-immigrant advocacy groups — that it’s time for her to take a trip. (Los Angeles Times)

Dreamers have filed a lawsuit that could remove some of the hurdles that have kept DACA recipients from gaining citizenship. A provision under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows immigrants to travel legally for school, work or humanitarian reasons, but many of the so-called advance parole applications have been in limbo for months. (Los Angeles Times)


California has made huge progress in the fight against COVID-19, but people are still dying. Latinos have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and they continue to account for a high number of deaths. Many of those dying are also men. (Los Angeles Times)

Latino and Black Californians are also less likely to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a Times analysis.

Many employers are grappling with how to return to the office and whether to require vaccinations. The Times wants to hear about what your workplace is doing. Tell us here.


A bumper crop of California almonds is expected this year, but some Central Valley farmers are worried about whether they’ll have enough water. The United States Department of Agriculture projected a record harvest of 3.2 billion pounds of almonds. The state grows 80% of the global almond supply. (Modesto Bee)

More rolling blackouts could be in store this summer if widespread extreme heat is in the forecast. The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s electric grid, said it is better prepared this year, but “it may still face challenges” in a severe heat wave. (San Francisco Chronicle)


How much money does it take to be considered “wealthy” in the Bay Area? According to the Charles Schwab Modern Wealth Survey, it takes an average net worth of $3.8 million. To be “financially happy,” it’s $1.8 million. The good news? Those figures are down from 2020. (SFGATE)

Honey butter chips, boba ice cream bars, kimchi and banchan are among the Asian specialties to be found in the aisles of H Mart, a Korean grocery chain that posted $1.5 billion in sales last year. It’s been described as a “beautiful, holy place” by musician Michelle Zauner. There are 102 H Marts across the country, including 15 in California. (New York Times)

You may know it from “Finding Nemo” or Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing,” but it’s rarely spotted IRL. Last week, an anglerfish, also known as a footballfish, washed ashore at the Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach. The odd-looking creature typically lives about 3,000 feet below the surface. (Los Angeles Times)

An anglerfish on sand
Ben Estes found the anglerfish while taking a walk at Crystal Cove State Beach on Friday.
(Ben Estes)

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 74. San Diego: cloudy, 70. San Francisco: cloudy, 63 . San Jose: sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 97. Sacramento: sunny, 91.


Today’s California memory comes from Nancy Teel:

In the summer of 1959, my mother and I flew from Pennsylvania to visit her sisters and their families in San Diego. An only child, I was thrilled to be with my cousins, while the adults rejoiced together. My oldest cousin had just gotten his driver’s license and somehow was allowed to drive a big red convertible. We kids piled in and started the day on the Silver Strand. Soon bored, we decided to visit all the beaches up to Los Angeles! I don’t think we even made it to La Jolla, but the day cemented our closeness forever.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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