On Thursday, President Joe Biden
signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes
Act into law, in response to a spike in anti-Asian violence
over the last year during the coronavirus pandemic
“There are simple core values that should bring us together as Americans — one of them is standing together against hate, against racism, the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden said ahead of the signing, telling legislators in the room that “you’ve taken a first step.”
The president went on to say that many Asian Americans
and Pacific Islanders have "lived here for generations and are still considered the 'other' by some."
“It’s wrong,” Biden said, adding, “My message to everyone who is hurting is, ‘We see you.’”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced legislation that would expedite the review of COVID-19-related hate crimes and direct law enforcement to improve how people
can report such incidents, as well as collect data and expand public awareness campaigns about hate crimes.
The bill was passed by a landslide in the Senate
and by a similar margin in the House
earlier this week.
Since last year, Asian Americans have reported an increase in racist
violence, which is frequently linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to one study, hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased by 150% in major U.S. cities.
Hate, a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups, recorded approximately 6,600 reports of racist violence against Asian Americans from March 2020 to March 2021, with people reporting being targeted with racial slurs, spat on, and physically assaulted, with women accounting for nearly two-thirds of those who reported being attacked.
“History will remember this day and this moment, when our nation took action to combat hate,” Vice President Kamala Harris
said ahead of the signing.
“It did not come out of nowhere, and none of it is new; in my life, in my lived experience, I have seen how hate can pervade our communities,” said Harris, the first Asian American and Black vice president.
Today is an excellent day for President Biden to sign the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law and help #StopAsianHatred. https://t.co/OjlrGwVe5h—
Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) May 20, 2021
Joining @SpeakerPelosi and @SenSchumer at the congressional bill signing ceremony for my #COVID19 Hate Crimes Act, which seeks to combat ongoing hate and violence against #Asian Americans; the legislation will now be signed into law by @POTUS tomorrow. #StopAsianHate 1/2 pic.twitter.com/mEacaDynXp— Grace Meng (@RepGraceMeng) May 19, 2021
Former President Donald Trump
famously perpetuated anti-Asian racism
by referring to the pandemic in derogatory terms, such as "Kung Flu" and "the China
“Asian Americans have the right to be recognized as Americans, not as the other, not as ‘them,’ but as ‘us,’” Harris said at another AAPI unity event on Wednesday.
In March, a white man shot eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent, at massage spas in Georgia
. Hirono introduced the new legislation.
Some Asian American organizations have expressed concern about the new legislation, claiming that by focusing on hate crimes, it fails to address the root causes of anti-Asian violence; instead, they advocate for longer-term investments in communities' health
and economic well-being.