L.A. County Targets Rising Hate Crimes

Artists depict Los Angeles communities uniting against hate crimes as part of L.A. vs. Hate.

By MARK HEDIN, Ethnic Media Services

Los Angeles city and county officials, educators, health care providers and community-based organizations are teaming up to provide resources against hate crimes, a problem worsened by the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To highlight this effort, a group of city and county officials and private sector executives announced the first “United Against Hate Week” on Nov. 30. The campaign comes less than a year after the county introduced the nation’s first hate-crime hotline, 211. In its first six months of operation, 13% of the calls to 211 were COVID-related.

“Hate is on the rise nationally, not just in our region,” said Robin Toma, director of the county Commission on Human Relations. An FBI report released in mid-November found that 2019 had the most hate crimes recorded in more than 10 years, and the most hate-motivated killings since the 1990s.

“This has been a tough year in many ways,” Toma said. “We know that this is a time of anxiety and fear that can lead to scapegoating and stereotyping.” But at the same time, he said, people are standing up for each other and their communities. The campaign is looking forward to bringing together millions of people in that effort.

Debra Duardo, superintendent of the county’s Office of Education, which oversees 80 school districts, emphasized students “knowing that they’re welcomed, loved and included. Making sure that bullying is never ignored, always addressed and never tolerated.

“The earlier we start, the better,” she said. That means that education should be inclusive of a multicultural community in its subject matter, such as ethnic studies, in a faculty that reflects the community, in empowering our children to love themselves and their culture, to know their culture and to teach empathy and relationship-building, sometimes beginning as early as preschool.”

It’s not only the right thing to do, said Maria Salinas of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, it’s good business to help ensure “a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace.

“This is our future workforce. The most important infrastructure that business has is people,” she said.

“It’s something we are going to have to deal with for a long time,” cautioned Capri Maddox, the first director of Los Angeles’ new (city) Department of Civil and Human Rights. The LGBTQ and Asian American Pacific Islander communities are particular targets, she said, but cited also, as recently as the Saturday after the Nov. 3 election when Joe Biden was declared president-elect, having to respond to hateful imagery painted at the large African American church of which she herself is a member.

John Baackes, CEO of L.A. Care, which has 2.3 million members in the county, cited the toll that the stresses of hate and intolerance add to people’s burdens and also called for increased emphasis on mental health care.

Toma emphasized that the 211 line is not just for reporting incidents, but also a guaranteed portal for getting help. “Anyone who calls 211 will get an offer of assistance,” he said, adding that although “we know that many more acts occur than are reported,” the 211 line is “not just reporting.”

Although many calls do result in police interventions, there are also dozens of community organizations that provide assistance. The line is open 24 hours every day and speakers of any language can use it.

The United Against Hate Week program, endorsed so far by 25 cities, features workshops, screenings, concerts and art installations up and down the state. A list is available at https://unitedagainsthateweek.org/find-events.

The campaign’s website, LAvsHate.org, offers an array of downloadable graphics, some tailored to specific communities, available for sharing.

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Artists Ask MoMA to Remove Philip Johnson’s Name, Citing Racist Views

Philip Johnson was one of the most influential architects of the past century, chameleonic in each of his roles as a New York power broker, art collector and creator of his “Glass House,” a celebrated landmark of modernist design in Connecticut.

He also championed racist and white supremacist viewpoints in his younger years. Johnson’s Nazi sympathies, for example, have been well documented, and he spent the years after World War II trying to distance himself from them.

Now a group of more than 30 prominent artists, architects and academics are casting a light on the more unsavory part of Johnson’s legacy, demanding in a letter published online on Nov. 27 that institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Harvard Graduate School of Design remove the name of the architect, who died in 2005, from their spaces.

“There is a role for Johnson’s architectural work in archives and historic preservation,” the Johnson Study Group, a largely anonymous group of designers and architects, wrote in the letter. “However, naming titles and spaces inevitably suggests that the honoree is a model for curators, administrators, students and others who participate in these institutions.”

The letter was signed by the contemporary artist Xaviera Simmons; the landscape architect and MacArthur fellow Kate Orff; and V. Mitch McEwen, an assistant professor of architecture at Princeton University, who is among eight of the 10 architects in an upcoming exhibition at MoMA — “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America” — that is slated to open Feb. 20.

It cites Johnson’s “widely documented” advocacy for white supremacist views, his attempt to found a fascist party in Louisiana, and failure to include work by a single Black artist or designer in MoMA’s collection during his tenure there. (He served in various roles over six decades.) The letter called on any institutions using his name to remove it.

“He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in the field of architecture,” the letter said, “a legacy that continues to do harm today.”

Johnson’s name has been on one of the exhibition galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, where he served as its first head of architecture and design, since 1984. His name is also included in the title of the museum’s chief curator of architecture and design.

Johnson created buildings that are widely considered architectural masterpieces of the 20th century, among them the MoMA sculpture garden and the pavilion that houses pre-Columbian art at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington. The New York Times critic Paul Goldberger praised him as American architecture’s “godfather, gadfly, scholar, patron, critic, curator, and cheerleader” in his obituary.

But in his younger years, he openly admired Hitler’s manifesto, “Mein Kampf,” attended Nazi rallies in Germany and was investigated by the F.B.I. for his connections to the Nazi party. He rejected Nazism after the end of World War II.

Representatives from MoMA and Harvard did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Ms. Orff, the landscape architect and MacArthur fellow, said in an email on Thursday that removing Johnson’s name from the gallery and the curator position would represent a significant step in dismantling racism in design culture.

“Landscape architecture is catching up in its assessment of its own legacy,” Ms. Orff said. “To move forward with a more imaginative, just, and equitable culture in the design fields, we have to reckon with past figures who set the ground rules.”

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