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CA's Attorney General Rob Bonta to AAPI Community: "I See You, I Value You, I am You"

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Jhemmylrut Teng
Jhemmylrut Teng
 25 days ago
Newly Appointed California's Attorney General Rob Bonta(Source: Witness LA)

He would go down in history as the first Filipino-American Attorney General of the State of California. Rob Bonta's American dream story rooted in social justice, and his upbringing as a Filipino-American in the United States shaped the man he is today.

An interview with the newly-appointed attorney general talked about his heritage, passion, and mission to combat Asian hate crimes.

Filipino Heritage

Bonta was born in St. Lukes Hospital in Quezon City, Philippines. His parents moved to the United States when he was two years old. It was also the time when former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the country.
A young Rob with his mother, Cynthia Bonta(Source: Cynthia Bonta)

Coming to California, his family found a home in a trailer near the United Farm Workers headquarters in La Paz. There, his parents worked alongside Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Philip Vera Cruz.

His parents were civil rights activists, working side by side with the Latinos to create greater justice and fight for equal rights and opportunities in the country.

"My parents are activists to the core... They've been part of some of the most important social justice movements in the history of our nation. And you know, that activism, that fight for justice, that commitment to right wrongs, is hardwired into who I am." - Rob Bonta, CA's Attorney General

Bonta raised in a fierce community and witnessing his parents marched on the street for social justice shaped him as a person and as a leader.

"Growing up that what inspired me to do more. My parents are my biggest supporters and my biggest inspirations. Their legacy of change-making of fighting injustice and helping people are really what inspired me in my career in public service." - Rob Bonta

Bonta was a graduate of Yale Law School; he later worked with the ACLU to adopt new rules to prevent racial profiling by the California Highway Patrol.

In 2012 he won the election to the California Assembly, representing Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro.

The former member of the California State Assembly was appointed in April by California Governor Gavin Newsom after the state's previous attorney general was appointed to the cabinet by President Joe Biden.

Vice President Kamala Harris previously served as California's attorney general before running for the US Senate in 2016.

As California's top state lawyer, Bonta is touted as one of the nation's most liberal attorney generals. He's ignited a fierce battle over-policing and has been vocal about a lack of trust between law enforcement and the communities they patrol.

Stop Asian Hate
Stop Asian Hate campaign(Source: Asia

Bonta's most pressing priorities include fighting hate, particularly the ongoing attacks against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

"This is something that is personal to me, as someone who has been targeted, because of who I am and where I'm from... Who has felt the sting of hate and bigotry and discrimination that so many have felt in AAPI community, and that they're feeling now."- Rob Bonta

Bonta's most pressing priorities include fighting hate, particularly the ongoing attacks against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

At least 95 Asian Americans were attacked in the United States' most significant cities in the first quarter of 2021 alone, according to a recent study by California State University, San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Many of the victims of the unprovoked attacks are Asian American senior citizens and women. This is a 164% increase compared to the previous year. Bonta said it is a "crisis warrants a state of emergency."

"When it comes to the anti-AAPI hate violence right now, we are in a full-on state of emergency. And a full-on state of crisis. And to the AAPI community, I say, I see you, I value you, I am you. And I have you back, I'm gonna fight for you." - Rob Bonta

Bonta is determined to ensure that law enforcement officials properly identify and investigates perpetrators of these hate crimes.

There many cases related to racial hate that wasn't considered hate crimes as many victims tend to not report the incidents to the police anymore because of their lack of trust in the authorities. And this is something Bonta wanted to change.

"With that trust [to law enforcement] community members feel comfortable coming forward as victims or witnesses of hate crimes. So, they can properly report and get justice and victims can heal. Right now, there's not that trust. There's a lack of trust. And massive undereporting of hate crimes" - Rob Bonta

The attorney general's office would push through victim-centered services to ensure they are supported and heal from the trauma they have experienced.

These services include mental health support, trauma-informed care with culturally competent services, and language access.

Empowering API Community

Fighting social equality for their entire life, the API community feel empowered when Bonta became the attorney general.

Because someone like them, who genuinely understand their plight and fight, finally has the power to make a difference.

California State Treasurer, Fiona Ma, says Bonta's nomination is meeting this moment - a time of great need for California's Asian Pacific Islander community.

"Especially now with all of the Asian hate crimes, having a strong API attorney general is very, very important," said Ma, who says she has known Bonta for 15 years. "Having a top cop who is going to prosecute these types of Asian-related crimes is very important to our community." - Fiona Ma

With his appointment, Bonta encourages more API to be more involved, ran for office, so there will be more representation in the government and leadership positions.

"It is important that we continue our rise and continue to take on those positions of influence and authority that we can help others, help our communities, help our state and our nation." Rob Bonta

Since Bonta was appointed and not elected, he still needs to run for re-election in 2022. There is already a well-known challenger, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who is an outspoken critic of Bonta's.

Despite the uncertainty of the future in this position, Bonta's appointment is meant for celebration in the representation of AAPI voices in leadership.