California Spent $110M to Stop Asian Hate Crimes. Where Did It Go?
How the government subsidizes make-work programs for university graduates
Two years ago, amid a national wave of violent crimes against Asian immigrants and Asian Americans, the state of California awarded $110 million over 3 years to non-profit organizations to provide services to victims and to develop programs to prevent anti-Asian hate crimes. “In response to the visible rise in anti-Asian hate, both locally and nationally,” the California Department of Social Services wrote on the program’s website, the state legislature provided those funds “to address the rise in hate against Asian and Pacific Islander Californians.”
What was that money spent on? Through a public records request, Public recently obtained grant applications from close to 50 grantees in the San Francisco Bay Area region, through two rounds of funding. The programs proposed by most of these groups, which typically received hundreds of thousands of dollars each, have little obvious connection to the goal of protecting Asians from violent attacks.
Collectively, the applications provide a glimpse into how much of the activist non-profit sector sustains itself by exploiting high-profile crises to raise funds that are then diverted into barely related or entirely unrelated causes. It also indicates how little the actual victims of those crises — in this case, Asian hate crime victims — actually benefit from these ballyhooed government spending sprees, which keep non-profit workers employed but do little for the communities they purport to serve.
“I have questions about the effectiveness of this program,” Carl Chan, a leader in Oakland’s Chinatown community who was once the victim of an anti-Asian assault, told Public. “Some of the organizations are getting millions of dollars to ‘stop AAPI hate,’ but it doesn’t look like they’re doing anything to actually stop it. That money isn’t going where it was supposed to.”
Per their answers to a question on the application asking them to describe what services they intend to provide with the funding, 16 of the groups described what many might expect from a program designed to protect Asians from violence: self-defense training, safety patrols, escort services for elderly Asians, legal services, “know your rights” workshops and psychotherapy for crime victims.
But the majority of the groups that received funding proposed programs that have little obvious direct impact on the lives of Asian hate crime victims or potential victims.
The Oakland Asian Cultural Center was awarded $90,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year to produce an anti-racism podcast. (For the second fiscal year, the same organization received $168,000, though the documents that the California Department of Social Services provided to Public did not include the group’s application for its second round of funding.)
Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. received $100,000 in the first round to provide mental health services for a group of children the organization took on an anti-racism road trip. (RAMS received $375,000 in the second round, but again, its application for continued funding was not provided to us.)
One group received funding to combat “anti-Blackness in the PI (Pacific Islander) community,” as if the reason Asians were victims of hate crimes was because of their own racism. Likewise, a group that represents Asian nail salon workers boasted of publishing a statement “condemning anti-Black racism in nail salons.” Another group aimed to “address biases against individuals who are houseless, formerly incarcerated, or Black/African American” — presumably biases held by Asians in the Oakland Chinatown community that the organization serves. Yet another group described its work educating the Asian community about the “connections” between anti-Asian violence and “anti-Black racism and white supremacy.”
Other groups didn’t pretend to serve Asians at all. Six groups proposed programs to protect LGBT people but made no mention of Asians. One of those groups, the Positive Resource Center, received $620,000 to produce “an anti-racism and anti-hate film that highlights the experiences of Black transgender folx through interviews.” Another worked on behalf of Latino LGBT immigrants. Yet another puts up posters against “hate,” without specification of any group in particular.
For some of the applicants, the language describing what they would do with the funding was impenetrable. “Through cross-racial dialogue and exchanges as well as stakeholder briefings,” read one, “we will gather and disseminate lessons and best practices to develop and strengthen system-wide wellness practices and program offerings to better serve youth in community as well as schools.”
“We cannot make change until we move away from operating in our traumatized selves and into power; we cannot fully heal until we dismantle the oppressions of the systems around us,” read another. “Therefore our approach includes supporting through a blend of traditional, ancestral and western evidence-based healing practices, as well as restoring a sense of self, voice, and power through curricula that addresses identity, inequity, and root causes.”
It isn’t even clear that the organizations that purport to provide meaningful services to Asians are actually fulfilling those roles. In February, Anthony Morales, a Filipino-American private investigator whose work extracting minors from sex slavery we’ve reported on at Public, called and emailed 17 of the Bay Area groups that received funding, posing as the nephew of an elderly Asian woman who was violently attacked. Only three of them offered any specific service. One was a non-profit law firm that offered to do an intake session. Another provided counseling services, but never called back as they promised they would. The third also offered counseling and made an earnest effort to serve the victim.
The rest either did not return Morales’ calls or emails, referred him to another organization, or told him they had no help to offer.
“As much as we would love to help, we aren’t currently set up to offer assistance to victims of hate crimes,” responded one organization that received over $1 million in state funding. Another group, which received $140,000, told him they don’t provide “services” and focus only on “environmental justice” and “organizing.”
If most of these organizations aren’t even trying to provide real services to victims or direct interventions to prevent future hate crimes, why is California giving them tens of millions of dollars to “stop Asian hate?”