The Sebastopol City Council adopted a resolution condemning all hateful speech and actions, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) at its regular meeting April 6.
The resolution comes on the heels of a mass shooting in Atlanta last month that left six Asian Americans dead and the motive for which many say was primarily race. The Atlanta shooting brought rising anti-Asian American sentiment and violence to the national stage, inspiring protests and increased activism in Sonoma County and the Bay Area and around the country.
According to a national coalition founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and San Francisco State’s Asian American Studies Department, cited in the resolution, over 2,800 hate incidents nationwide—including 800 in California—have occurred since the pandemic began. Incidents have included physical assault, verbal harassment, shunning, workplace discrimination, refusal of service and online harassment.
The resolution and others participating in the national dialogue around Asian American hate have attributed the uptick in hate crimes to hateful rhetoric employed by some of the nation’s leaders following the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, which may have originated in China.
“[Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] are increasingly concerned about their safety and well-being given the rise of racially motivated attacks and hate crimes,” the resolution reads.
“All acts of hate and discrimination are antithetical to our values as Sebastopol residents, Californians and Americans. As a community, it is our duty to promote respect, inclusion, and a welcoming community for people of all races, national origins and ethnicities.”
The resolution expands this sentiment to persons of all sexual orientations, genders, gender identities, gender expressions, disabilities and ages, and calls on all Sebastopol residents to condemn hate when confronted with it and to report hateful behavior, violence and discrimination.
“Reporting these incidents is critical to holding perpetrators accountable and fully addressing the issue,” the resolution reads.
Through the resolution, the City of Sebastopol will look for ways to work with the community to create tangible solutions to counter rising racist and hateful sentiments and combat hate crimes, calling additionally for policies of inclusion and social equity.
“The Sebastopol City Council will work jointly with members of the community to develop tangible, community-led solutions to root out discrimination, hate, and systemic racism, and uplift solidarity and the Sebastopol City Council will explore opportunities to prevent discrimination, bullying, harassment and hate crimes against individuals,” it states.
At a recent Climate Action Committee meeting, committee members were subjected to hate speech by a member of the public participating via Zoom. Per the resolution, there will be zero tolerance for hate speech in public meetings, and anyone employing hateful rhetoric will be muted and banned from the meeting.
“Our community is one that stands against hate and racism and wants our businesses, our residents, our employees here, our visitors here—everyone here—to be free from any hate conversation or hateful action or violence against them. So, it’s very important that we speak with one voice in this no tolerance, zero tolerance position that we’re taking tonight,” Vice Mayor Sarah Gurney said.
The resolution also cites historical discrimination against Asian Americans as a reason for proactive action fighting racism, citing Japanese internment during World War II and policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (a Sonoma County chapter of which local hero Luther Burbank was a leader early on in his life).
“It is very important for our community to understand that we have to not just say we don’t like these kinds of hateful actions. It’s more than just words—it’s all about actually taking action any time we have any possible opportunity to counter this extremely bad behavior in our community,” Mayor Una Glass said.
“We can do more than a resolution—we have to create a culture of zero tolerance. We have to create a culture where any of these kinds of hateful, discriminatory behaviors become socially unacceptable. We have to do more than just enshrine things in law.”