Brian Levin, founding director of the non-partisan Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, has been appointed to the California Commission on the State of Hate by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the governor’s office has announced.
Levin, a professor in the CSUSB School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is among the first cohort of five appointed commissioners appointed by the governor to the new panel. Joining him on the commission are Cynthia Choi, co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action since 2016 and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate; Bamby Salcedo, president and chief executive officer at the TransLatin@ Coalition; Shirin Sinnar, professor at Stanford Law School; and Erroll G. Southers, associate senior vice president of Safety and Risk Assurance at the University of Southern California. The appointments do not require confirmation by the state Senate and commissioners receive no compensation.
The announcement comes just as Levin travels to Washington, D.C., to participate in President Joe Biden’s United We Stand Summit, aimed at countering “the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety,” on Thursday, Sept. 15, and a week before the Eradicate Hate Global Summit 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sept. 19-21, where he will present the latest findings of the center as well as the work that lies ahead of the new state commission.
The commission is new, signed into law by Newsom in October 2021. The legislation that created it, Assembly Bill 1126, was authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica). The commission is tasked with monitoring and tracking hate crimes, and recommending policy to the governor, state Legislature and state agencies to combat hate crimes.
“The legislature and the governor did a beautiful job of putting together the vision for the commission,” Levin said. “There’s been a groundswell of support from Muslim groups, Jewish groups, the disabled community, AAPI, African-American, transgender and Latinx communities, among others.
“Just days before we lost the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King to unspeakable violence he told us, ‘We shall overcome because the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’” Levin said. “With hate crime records getting shattered with each passing year, it is a sobering reality that we are going to have to redouble our efforts to join hands to bend that arc even more. It is my earnest hope that this all-star collection of compassion and experience assembled for this commission will bring us closer to achieving Dr. King’s vision for all Californians.
According to Levin, a new study of 2021 data conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found a 21 percent increase in hate crimes in 19 states, including California and the District of Columbia. The study extended into early 2022, as well. In addition, data examined from more than 50 major U.S. cities, including 35 of the top 50, found a 29 percent increase in hate crimes, with many groups seeing increases of more than 40 percent. African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, the gay community, Jews and Asians all had increases in 2021, he noted.
Levin said he believes the state must “promote the welfare and the safety of our diverse communities of residents. Each one deserves security, dignity and protection, particularly from violence,” he said. “If there's a specific problem or specific issue, and there are communities that are not getting the kind of attention, data, resources and intervention they need, we have to change the bureaucracy to make sure that people aren't going to suffer in silence. That’s what I hope [the Commission] will do.”
Levin said he hopes that this first-in-the-nation commission will spark similar entities across the country.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom, Assemblymember Bloom and their staffs, CSUSB President Tomás Morales and the California State University for sharing this vision as well,” Levin said. “Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
In addition to the monitoring and tracking of hate crimes and proposing policy, the commission will provide resources to various state agencies and the public to inform them on the state of hate. Its policy recommendations will be aimed at promoting intersocial education designed to foster mutual respect and understanding among California’s diverse population.
The commission is also required to host and coordinate a minimum of four in-person or virtual community forums, open to the public, on the state of hate per year. It is also responsible for producing an annual State of Hate Commission Report, beginning July 1, 2023, that describes its activities for the previous year and its recommendations for the following year.
The announcement of commission members caps years of work by Levin and others. In 2016, Levin testified before a joint session of the state Legislature on behalf of a consortium of California civil rights groups to approve an audit assessing the response of law enforcement agencies to victims of hate crimes. That audit showed serious deficiencies in that response. Subsequently, Levin began discussions with Bloom about using his temporary Select Committee on the State of Hate – which held a hearing on the CSUSB campus on October 2019 – as a model for a permanent commission. He became an unofficial advisor to the committee and assisted in assembling expert panels statewide with researchers and community advocates.
Legislation was also introduced in support of a permanent commission, but none of the earlier efforts were successful.
That changed with the passage of AB 1126 in 2021, for which Levin was a staunch and vocal advocate, testifying on its behalf at hearings on the bill, and promoting it before the U.S. Senate, at international conferences, and with human relations commissions throughout California, along with other professional and community groups.
Levin, the California State University 2020 Wang Family Excellence Award recipient, has long been a sought-after expert in hate crimes and extremism, testifying before Congressional and state legislative bodies on the topic; sharing his expertise with local, regional, national and international news media; and presenting at professional conferences and civic and community groups.
That is in addition to his research for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE), established at CSUSB 23 years ago. CSHE examines the ways that bigotry, extremism, terrorism – both domestically and internationally – deny civil or human rights to people because of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other relevant status characteristics.
The center’s latest research, “Report to the Nation: 2020s – Dawn of a Decade of Rising Hate,” is available online.