In his prime-time speech Thursday marking the anniversary of the first coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, Biden condemned “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, they’re on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives, and still, still, they’re forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” the president said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop.”
Since the start of 2020, Asian Americans have reported a surge in racist attacks and harassment related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since last March, a group of Asian American advocacy groups called Stop AAPI Hate has been collecting reports of racist incidents in an online database — and by the end of 2020, they had received more than 2,800 reports from Asian Americans who had been called racial slurs, spat on, physically assaulted and more. And the data is likely an undercount since it is self-reported and voluntary.
When Donald Trump was president, he repeatedly made racist remarks, calling the virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, the “Chinese virus,” the “China virus” and other offensive terms.
Within days of entering office, Biden signed an executive order condemning anti-Asian racism amid the pandemic. The largely symbolic measure directed the Department of Justice to increase efforts to address hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Among recent attacks on Asians across the country, an 84-year-old Thai man was shoved and killed in San Francisco in late January and a 91-year-old man was violently shoved to the ground that same month in the Chinatown neighborhood of Oakland, California.
In New York City, the city’s Commission on Human Rights reported in April 2020 that it had received 105 reports of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination since that February, compared with only five during the same period in 2019.
Advocates for the Asian American community have been urging people not to stay silent in the face of these racist attacks: “We are in a moment of reckoning,” civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen told MSNBC last month. “Quite frankly, it is a betrayal of the very fundamental tenets of what it means to be an American if people stay silent in the face of hate.”
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