President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris offered comfort to Asian Americans and denounced the scourge of racism sometimes hidden “in plain sight” while visiting Atlanta, just days after a white gunman killed eight people, most of them Asian-American women.
Addressing the nation after a roughly 80-minute meeting with Asian-American state legislators and other leaders on Friday, Biden said it was “heartbreaking” to hear his stories about fear among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in amid what he called a “skyrocketing surge.” peak ”of harassment and violence against them.
“We have to change our hearts,” he said. “Hate cannot have a safe harbor in America.”
Biden called on all Americans to confront bigotry when they see it, adding: “Our silence is complicity. We cannot be accomplices. “
“They have been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed; they have been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed, “Biden said of Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
The president also called the shootings an example of a “public health crisis of gun violence in this country,” as his administration has come under scrutiny from some members of his own party for failing to act as quickly as promised to reform the nation’s gun laws.
Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold a national office, said that while the shooter’s motive remains under investigation, these facts are clear: six of the eight killed were of Asian descent and seven of them were women.
“Racism is real in America. And it always has been. Xenophobia is real in America and it always has been. Sexism too, ”he said. “The president and I will not remain silent. We will not be left out. We will always speak out against violence, crimes motivated by prejudice and discrimination, where and when it occurs ”.
He added that everyone has “the right to be recognized as an American. Not like the other, not like them. But like us. “
Before leaving Washington, Biden declared his support for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill that would strengthen government reporting and response to hate crimes and provide resources to Asian American communities.
The US President and Vice President’s trip was planned ahead of the shooting, as part of a victory lap aimed at selling the benefits of pandemic relief legislation. But Biden and Harris, instead, spent much of their visit comforting a community whose growing voting power helped secure their victory in Georgia and beyond.
Activists have seen an increase in racist attacks. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its associated advocacy groups, since March 2020.
Biden and Harris implicitly criticized former President Donald Trump. “Over the last year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power who have made Asian Americans scapegoats,” Harris said, “people with the biggest pulpits, spreading this kind of hate.”
In his first primetime address to the nation as president last Thursday, five days before the Atlanta killings at three massage parlors in the metropolitan area, Biden called the attacks on Asian Americans “anti-American.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism