Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Friday called for an end to discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans, just days after a gunman killed eight people in Georgia, including six of Asian origin.
“Hatred and violence are often hidden in plain sight. It is often met with silence, ”the president said in a speech at Emory University in Atlanta. “This must change, because our silence is complicity. We cannot be accomplices. We need to talk. We must act. “
Biden and Vice President Harris were originally scheduled to travel to Atlanta on Friday for a drive-through rally to tout the benefits of their US $ 1.9 billion bailout, a vast stimulus plan that was enacted last week.
But the White House changed its plans this week after a 21-year-old gunman shooting at three Atlanta area spas and massage parlors. Instead, the president and vice-president met with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Asian-American community leaders on Friday before delivering a televised speech Friday afternoon.
Local police have resisted branding the mass shooting a hate crime, but the violence has reignited calls across the country to end discrimination against Asian Americans, who have seen an increase in racial attacks Coronavirus pandemic.
Stop AAPI Hate, an advocacy group that fights xenophobia against Asian Americans, has recorded nearly 3,800 episodes of racially motivated hatred against Asian Americans in the past year.
Many critics have criticized Donald Trump for spreading racial hatred by calling Covid-19 a “Chinese virus” and a “Wuhan virus”.
“Whatever the killer’s motive, these facts are clear – six of the eight people killed on Tuesday night were of Asian descent, seven were female,” Harris said in his remarks to Emory. “The shootings took place in businesses owned by Asian Americans. The shootings took place as violent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans increased dramatically over the past year.
“Racism is real in America, and always has been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been, ”added Harris, who is the first woman, black person and person of South Asian origin to serve as vice president. “The president and I will not be silent. We will not stand idly by. We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, where and when they occur. “
Biden alluded to comments from Trump and others who called Covid-19 a “Chinese virus,” saying, “We’ve always known: words have consequences. It’s the coronavirus. Complete stop. ”
The president also called on Congress to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, a law introduced by Democrats Grace Meng of New York and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, which would increase federal, state and local funding for the prosecution of crimes of hatred.
“Hatred can have no refuge in America. It has to stop, ”Biden added. “It’s up to all of us, all of us together, to stop it.”