Biden condemns ‘skyrocketing’ hate crimes against Asian Americans in wake of deadly shooting spree

March 23, 2021

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Atlanta on March 19 to personally condemn rising hate crimes against Asian Americans in the wake of the mass shooting in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent, CNN reports.

Biden said hate crimes against Asian Americans have been “skyrocketing” since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago and that the country cannot be silent in the face of the hate and violence.

“Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act,” Biden said, speaking from Emory University in Atlanta.

He said Asian Americans have been “attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.”

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American leaders in the wake of the deadly shooting. They had originally planned to travel to Atlanta to tout the benefits of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package that Biden recently signed into law—but the White House scrapped plans for a rally after the shooting.

“The conversation we had today with the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) leaders, and that we’re hearing all across the country, is that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. It’s often met with silence,” Biden said. “That’s been true throughout our history, but that has to change because our silence is complicity.”

According to CNN, Biden urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which he has said would:

  • Expedite the federal government’s response to hate crimes that have risen during the pandemic;
  • Support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting; and
  • Make information on hate crimes more accessible to Asian American communities.

Biden and Harris did not explicitly state that they considered the shootings earlier this week a hate crime. But they noted that whatever the motivation of the shooter, the killings come amid rising hate crimes against Asian Americans in the United States.

“Racism is real in America and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America and always has been —sexism too,” said Harris, who is America’s first Black and South Asian vice president.

The vice president said: “For the last year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans—people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate. Ultimately this is about who we are as a nation. This is about how we treat people with dignity and respect.”

Stephanie Cho, the executive director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said former President Donald Trump’s name came up repeatedly during Biden’s hourlong meeting with the group.

Biden acknowledged Trump’s contributions to a rise in hate against Asian Americans, Cho told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny.

As for what Cho hopes to see from the administration, she said: “I’d like to see it be beyond this moment. And that as much as the former president called it the ‘China virus’ and scapegoated Asian Americans and really fueled this racism around Asian Americans, I would like to see the Biden administration come out just as strongly but in support of Asian Americans.”

Biden said he would work as “much as possible” to roll back that rhetoric.

Research contact: @CNN

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