President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris offered comfort to Asian Americans and condemned the scourge of racism sometimes hidden “in plain sight” when they visited Atlanta, just days after a white shooter killed eight people, most of them Asian American women.
Speaking to the nation after an approximately 80-minute meeting with Asian American lawmakers and other leaders on Friday, Biden said it was “heartbreaking” to listen to their stories of fear among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the midst of what he called “skyrocketing. nail ”of harassment and violence against them.
“We have to change hearts,” he said. “Hatred cannot have a safe haven in America.”
Biden urged all Americans to stand up against exaggeration when they see it, adding: “Our silence is complicity. We can not be involved. ”
“They have been attacked, blamed, scolded and harassed; they have been verbally abused, physically abused, killed, “Biden said of Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
The president also called the shootings an example of a “public health crisis for violent weapons in this country”, as his administration has come under scrutiny from some in his own party for not going as fast as promised to reform the country’s gun laws.
Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold a national office, said that although the motives for the shootings are still 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 always has been. Sexism too, she said. “The president and I will not keep quiet. We will not stand by. We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs. ”
She added that everyone has “the right to be recognized as Americans. Not as the other, not as them. But as us.”
Before leaving Washington, Biden declared his support for the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a bill that would strengthen government reporting and responses to hate crimes and provide resources to Asian American communities.
State State Rep. Marvin Lim, who was one of a group of Asian American leaders who met Biden and Harris in Atlanta, said that the group “did not really talk about convicting hate crimes and all these things there has been a lot of discussion about.
“We really talked about the sadness people feel, the fear that people feel, the possible answers to it,” says Lim. “The discussion felt very affirming.”
State Sen. Michelle Au, a Chinese-American Democrat representing parts of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, was moved by Harris’ presence and said: “Not only was she there listening to us, but she also understood these issues in a very intimate way. , that in some ways you can not teach, that you can not teach that kind of lived experience. So we felt she would be an incredible advocate on our behalf in the White House. ”
Their trip was planned before the shooting, as part of a victory round aimed at selling the benefits of pandemic relief legislation. But Biden and Harris instead spent much of their visit comforting a community whose growing power to vote 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 partner groups, since March 2020.
Biden and Harris both implicitly criticized former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called COVID-19 the “China virus.”
“Over the past year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power for Asian Americans,” says Harris, “people with the largest pulpit and spreading this kind of hatred.”
“We have always felt that words have consequences,” Biden said. “It’s ‘coronavirus’. Point.”
In his first prime-time address to the nation as president last Thursday – five days before the assassination of three subway massage companies in Atlanta – Biden called attacks on Asian Americans “un-American.”
Biden also used the visit to tour the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he was briefed on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and gave a pep talk to the agency’s researchers.
“We owe you a gigantic gratitude and we will do so for a long, long, long time,” Biden said, adding that “science is back” pursuing its policy of fighting the virus.
Although the originally planned political event to eradicate the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill has been delayed, Biden still met with Georgia’s suffrage advocate Stacey Abrams, the Democrats’ likely 2022 gubernatorial candidate, as Republicans in the state legislature push several proposals to present it is more difficult to vote in the state.
“The fight for the right to vote is never over,” Biden said. “It’s not here in this state of Georgia. So we’ll fight again. “
He also met with recent democratic sentiments. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
As the fastest growing racial demographic in American voters, Asian Americans are gaining political influence across the country. In California, two Korean American Republican women made history with their victories in Congress. Congress’s Asian Pacific Caucus, usually dominated by Democrats, has its largest list ever, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders members and others representing a large number of Asian Americans.
“We are becoming increasingly visible and active in the political ecosystem,” said Au, a Democrat who represents part of the growing, diversifying suburbs north of Atlanta. Still, Au said: “What I have heard personally and what I have felt is that sometimes people do not usually listen to us.”
Au said that the White House’s spotlight, especially in the midst of tragedy, is welcomed by a society that is often overshadowed in national conversations about diversity. She noted that Trump and other Republicans only abolished the accusations of racism when they called the corona virus “China virus” because of its origins.
“Getting them to talk about it this way, so publicly, and to say AAPI, or to note that our societies are going through difficult times, is enormous,” Au said.
As he boarded Air Force One on Friday morning, Biden, who was wearing a mask, stumbled several times up the stairs to the plane before greeting the military officer who greeted him on the tarmac. Jean-Pierre said Biden “did 100% well.”