A special legislative committee is crisscrossing the state over the next six months, taking Californians’ temperature on race relations and human rights, with plans to develop bills around the feedback its gets.
"It’s all about making sure there is legislation in place to protect the most vulnerable, and those that are being targeted and bullied because of their race, culture, creed and religion," Assemblymember Isadore Hall (D-Compton) told KPCC.
Hall was appointed in February to chair the Select Committee on Human Rights, Diversity and Race Relations by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles).
Hall said the committee was formed after two Latino gang members from Compton attacked four African-Americans on New Year’s Eve. The gang members pleaded guilty Thursday to committing federal hate crimes.
The first of the committee's hearings was held Thursday afternoon in Carson at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Hall told an audience of community leaders that tensions between African-Americans and Latinos have spilled over from city streets to school yards.
“We’re having more fights, black-on-brown and brown-on-black fights in our schools because we don’t have the diversity, the culture sensitivity that’s necessary," Hall said.
Hall says legislation to promote tolerance in California schools may come out of the hearings - about a half dozen more are planned.
Panelists at Thursday's hearing represented organizations including the California Department of Justice, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Sikh Coalition and Equality California.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown said she was heartened by the range of cultural backgrounds represented by speakers and audience members.
"We have more similarities than we have differences," Brown said, noting shared concerns over efforts to eliminate affirmative action, and the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act crafted to protect minority voters.
You can watch the hearing, or part of it, here. (It runs three hours).