President Joe Biden condemned the violence Asian Americans have endured throughout the coronavirus pandemic in his first national prime-time address Thursday night.
Biden, whose speech marked one year after the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, said that “too often, we’ve turned against one another.” He said that Americans should be working together but that, instead, there have been “vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who’ve been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated.”
“At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, are on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives and still — still are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”
Biden signed a memorandum in January that denounced discrimination directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander community throughout the pandemic. Lawmakers announced Thursday that they would build on the executive action, reintroducing a bill that would boost support for law enforcement agencies to address hate crimes related to the pandemic.
“We’ve seen the horrifying consequences of racist language as AAPI communities across our country experience hate crimes and violence related to the pandemic,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who helped spearhead the bill, said in a statement. “The bill also provides resources for communities to come together and fight intolerance and hate. This is no less than victims deserve.”
While hate crimes decreased overall last year, those targeting Asian Americans surged by nearly 150 percent in major cities, according to a report released this month. New York City and Los Angeles had particularly high increases.
The decline in hate crimes overall can probably be explained by the pandemic and the subsequent lack of interaction in public areas and other gathering places, such as public transit, commercial businesses, schools and houses of worship, according to the analysis. However, anti-Asian hate crimes rose along with the spread of Covid-19 cases and the perpetuation of the negative associations of Asian Americans with the virus.
Kimmy Yam is a reporter for NBC Asian America.