Essential California: Anti-Asian hate, a year after Atlanta shootings

People in masks hold signs reading "Stop hate crimes" and "No place for hate"
People hold signs decrying anti-Asian violence and hate at a news conference in Los Angeles in March 2021.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 16. I’m Jeong Park, a reporter covering Asian American communities, filling in for Justin Ray.

Today marks the first anniversary of the Atlanta-area spa shootings in which a gunman killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

The shootings happened more than 2,000 miles from Los Angeles. But for so many Asian Americans in California, including myself, the attack felt like it happened next door. After all, it followed months of heightened anti-Asian hate across the country, including here in California.


I remember sitting in my Sacramento apartment, scrolling through Korean American newspapers, seeing one heartbreaking detail after another. Just as I came to Los Angeles when I was 11, many of the victims and their families had come to America seeking a better future.

The shootings sparked an unprecedented level of activism from the Asian American community, as ABC News anchors Juju Chang and Eva Pilgrim told my colleague Stephen Battaglio.

I’ve talked with community members who have organized self-defense classes and pepper spray distributions. My colleagues at The Times have repeatedly documented the community’s response, from a Highland Park resident writing a booklet titled “How to Report a Hate Crime” to academics and activists building solidarity between Asian and Black Americans.

[Read the story: “Times coverage of anti-Asian racism during the pandemic” in the Los Angeles Times]

Still, it’s undeniable that the pandemic and anti-Asian racism have left a deep scar in the Asian American community. In a poll released Tuesday, two-thirds of Asian Americans in Los Angeles County surveyed said they are worried about being a victim of a racial attack.

Nearly a quarter said someone has verbally or physically abused them or damaged their property during the pandemic because of their race or ethnicity.


I recently talked with Joung Kim, a 68-year-old Korean American living in Leisure World in Seal Beach. A year after her friend was sent a letter that said the death of her husband “makes it one less Asian to put up with in Leisure World” and called for Asian Americans to “Watch out,” Kim told me she realized how anti-Asian hate and discrimination can lead to violence.

“If they want Asians to be gone, then I would have to be gone too,” Kim told me.

There’s plenty of debate to be had on whether an incident is a hate crime or not, but the trauma it leaves on the community — seen in the recent killing of Christina Yuna Lee in New York City, or the stabbing of Yongja Lee in Long Beach — is the same nonetheless.

As a reporter covering Asian American communities and anti-Asian hate, I confess writing about it can get exhausting. But I often think back to how the community has been rallying to fight back.

“We may not be able to stop the violence against our community, our elders, but if our work can make one person think differently, perhaps that’s what matters in the end,” I wrote a few days after the shootings. “So, we push on, trying to make whatever bit of a difference we can. People call journalists cynics, but in a sense, we are powered by optimism, however fruitless it may be.”

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

Despite record-shattering dryness, Californians are conserving less water. The cumulative savings from July is less than half what Gov. Gavin Newsom had called for. Increased restrictions and mandatory water cuts may be in order, officials said Tuesday. Los Angeles Times


Europe is seeing more coronavirus cases. What does this mean for California? “The next wave in Europe has begun,” one scientist said. In Contra Costa County, the San Francisco Bay Area’s third-most-populous, a sewage plant is reporting at least a doubling of coronavirus genetic material over a recent 15-day period. Los Angeles Times

San Mateo County has reduced its unsheltered homeless population to functional zero. Can others follow? Federal relief money has let counties create rooms and beds. But whether the Bay Area county’s approaches can be replicated elsewhere is an open question that could drive policy discussions for years to come. San Francisco Chronicle

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Karen Bass is running for L.A. mayor as a progressive Democrat. But her stances on policing and homelessness have made some supporters less enthusiastic. Bass, who called for the hiring of about 200 additional police officers, said the city’s Black and Latino neighborhoods want police who are responsive but also act responsibly. But some of her longtime supporters are warning that “pandering to affluent white” voters can cost Bass “a base that she cannot afford to lose.” Los Angeles Times

Transforming local journalism, one newsletter at a time. A $5-a-month Substack newsletter promises at least four original pieces a week about East Hollywood, especially its Virgil Village neighborhood. Los Angeles Times

Dodger Stadium is getting a Sandy Koufax statue. The statue will be unveiled in the Centerfield Plaza at the stadium on June 18. It will stand beside the statue of another Dodgers legend — Jackie Robinson. LAist


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California is still in a COVID-19 state of emergency. An effort by Republican state lawmakers to end Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration, which grants him broad executive powers, was blocked in the Democratic-controlled Legislature on Tuesday. Los Angeles Times

Newsom says Disney should bring jobs back to California over Florida LGBTQ bill. The legislation, often referred to by the LGBTQ community as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, would limit instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Walt Disney Co. has had plans to relocate 2,000 jobs from Southern California to its new campus in Florida. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles Fire Department gave a $1.4-million payout to a high-ranking official allegedly drunk during a major fire. Chief Deputy Fred Mathis was probably intoxicated while he was overseeing the agency’s operations center during the Palisades fire last spring, according to a private law firm hired by the city to investigate the episode. Yet, Mathis was cleared because he was “technically off duty.” Los Angeles Times

A proposed California bill aims to hold social media companies legally liable for addicting kids. Significantly, the legislation is retroactive, which would put the companies at legal risk for any past damage their products caused for teens and younger children. Politico

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An industrial e-commerce facility near Fresno grows to ’59 football fields.’ The project is expected to bring more than 1,800 jobs to the region, but advocates say the site’s daily operations would require high volumes of truck traffic that could create toxic diesel emissions and smog-forming contaminants in areas where residents already experience disproportionately high levels of pollution burden and asthma. Fresno Bee


Drama over Chick-fil-A drive-through isn’t new. Santa Barbara is threatening to declare the Chick-fil-A on State Street a public nuisance because of traffic issues. But as the pages of The Times show, the city isn’t the only one trying to fight those fast-food drive-throughs. Los Angeles Times

Quicker “freedom” for minor leaguers in California? Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) plans to introduce legislation that would require teams to allow a player to seek a contract with another organization after four years in the minors instead of seven. According to Becker’s office, most minor leaguers make below the $13,590 per year defined by the federal government as “poverty level.” Los Angeles Times

End of the Underground Museum. The family-run art space in Arlington Heights has been a vital community resource for artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, activists and other creatives since it opened. Los Angeles Times

Using a BART train car as a short-term rental? That’s just one of the ideas for creative reuse of some of the agency’s old vehicles. Mercury News

Major K-pop agency plans a “full-scale” expansion into the U.S. JYP Entertainment, of TWICE, ITZY and Stray Kids (and my favorite K-Pop group Day6), is creating a new North American subsidiary based in Los Angeles to develop its roster and “discover and foster local US artists.” NME


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Los Angeles: Still hoping for some rain, 77. San Diego: Little chilly, 65. San Francisco: Breezy with some clouds in the morning, 59. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 71. Fresno: Sunny, 75. Sacramento: Good day for a bike ride on the American River, 73.


Today’s California memory is from Suzanne Marks:

Walking home from Third Street School, I saw my mother on our block, carrying a clipboard. I asked her what she was doing…. And she calmly answered that there was a family wanting to move into our neighborhood in Hancock Park, and she was collecting signatures. “And the women on the other side of the street?” I asked. “They have clipboards too.” “They’re collecting signatures so that this family doesn’t move in,” my mother said. I never asked my mom why she was collecting signatures, and it wasn’t until six months later when reading the L.A. Times that I learned that Nat King Cole and his family were now residents in our neighborhood.

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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