"The idea that we are today in 2021 still having conversations we were having in 1881, a year before the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, is painful and infuriating at the same time," said the governor, speaking from the Chinese Culture Center. "What the hell is wrong with us?"
"That's San Francisco's scar, that's the state's scar, that's our nation's scar," he said.
Newsom repeatedly condemned acts of violence, but also called out "quiet perpetrators" of anti-Asian hate, "who may not associate themselves with crimes but with the kind of bigotry that's whispered or spoken."
WATCH: Newsom speaks out against Asian American violence
The governor highlighted that many hate crimes likely go unreported, and said the state needs to do more to ensure victims feel comfortable coming forward.
"The acts of violence and bigotry impact all of us because we're all part of the same community," Newsom said. "There's no justice when we demean people because of their race or ethnicity."
The recent shootings at three Georgia spas that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans since the coronavirus entered the United States.
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As details emerge, many members of the Asian American community see the Georgia killings as a haunting reminder of harassment and assaults that have been occurring from coast to coast.
Recent attacks, including the killing of an 84-year-old San Francisco man in February, have raised concerns about worsening hostilities toward Asian Americans. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups, since March 2020. Nationally, women reported more than double the number of hate incidents compared with men.
Police in several major cities saw a sharp uptick in Asian-targeted hate crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. New York City went from three incidents to 27, Los Angeles from seven to 15, and Denver had three incidents in 2020 -- the first reported there in six years.
Many lawmakers have acknowledged a heightened sense of fear among Asian Americans as a result of the increasing number of hate incidents.
Rep. Judy Chu, who represents parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, reminded people of the effect of anti-Asian rhetoric.
"As we wait for more details to emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and rhetoric have real life consequences," she wrote on Twitter. "Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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