President Joe Biden condemned anti-Asian violence in a speech in Georgia on Friday, days after a gunman killed eight people ― six of whom were women of Asian descent ― at three Atlanta-area spas.
“We have to change our hearts. Hate can have no safe harbor in America,” Biden said in a speech at Emory University. “It must stop ― and it’s on all of us together to make it stop.”
The president also called for the prompt passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which is aimed at protecting victims of coronavirus-related hate crimes. In an earlier statement, Biden said the legislation would help address “the ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation.”
Emory University is located a short distance from two spas where a gunman opened fire on Tuesday. The shooter allegedly drove to the locations after first attacking another spa in Acworth, Georgia.
A 21-year-old local man has been charged with shooting nine people, eight fatally, in the rampage.
Xiaojie Tan, Soon Chung Park, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun and Paul Andre Michels were killed in the attack. The ninth victim, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, is hospitalized and in critical condition.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American community leaders ― including Georgia state legislators Bee Nguyen, Marvin Lim, Michelle Au, Sheikh Rahman and Sam Park ― earlier on Friday to speak about the shootings and address a recent deluge of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islander individuals across the country.
More than 3,700 racist incidents against AAPIs have been reported in the U.S. over the past year, according to Stop AAPI Hate, an AAPI advocacy group.
In his remarks, Biden expressed alarm at this “skyrocketing spike” of “documented hate against Asian Americans.”
“Too many Asian Americans have been ... worrying, waking up each morning over the past year feeling that their safety and the safety of their loved ones is at stake,” Biden said. “They’ve been attacked, scapegoated and harassed, verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.”
“Hate and violence often hide in plain sight,” he added. “It’s often met with silence. That’s been true throughout our history and that has to change. Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.”
The president has been unequivocal in his excoriation of anti-Asian violence, calling such attacks “un-American” in a statement earlier this week.
His remarks on the issue contrast starkly with the anti-Asian rhetoric touted by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and “kung flu.”
Harris, who is the first Black and first Asian person to hold the office of vice president, has been similarly vocal about denouncing xenophobia and racism.
“Everyone has the right to go to work, to go to school, to walk down the street and be safe ― and also the right to be recognized as an American,” Harris said in remarks delivered before Biden’s on Friday. “Not as the other. Not as ‘them.’ But as us. A harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us.”
As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted, Biden and Harris had planned to attend a drive-in rally in Atlanta on Friday evening to celebrate the recent passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. They canceled the rally, however, so they could meet with Asian American leaders.
Biden and Harris also visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is headquartered in Atlanta, to discuss the nation’s fight against COVID-19.
Biden reminded Americans in his speech at Emory to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and to “get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”
“I need all Americans to keep doing their part,” he said.