IN his first primetime address marking the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the “vicious” and “un-American” attacks on Asian Americans.
Speaking to the nation from the White House on Thursday, March 11, Biden acknowledged the divisiveness deepened during the pandemic, from refusals to wear masks to hate incidents and crimes against the Asian American community, which have soared since last spring according to various reports.
“Too often, we have turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives, sometimes, it divides us, states pitted against one another, instead of working with each other, vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated,” the president said.
The chief executive’s remarks come as the community has recorded nearly 3,000 accounts of xenophobia, racism and harassment from March to December 2020, according the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center.
“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. It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop,” Biden urged.
Since the beginning of 2021, more incidents have been reported, particularly against elderly individuals. The attacks include 84-year-old Thai immigrant Vicha Ratanapakdee being pushed to death in San Francisco; Noel Quintana, a Filipino man who was slashed in the face on the New York subway while on his way to work; and 74-year-old Juanito Falcon, a Filipino grandfather who was punched in the face in Phoenix, Arizona, and later died of his injuries.
The president did not offer concrete details on combating the attacks, but Asian American elected leaders and community members were quick to point out his words in contrast to the previous administration, which they argue fueled the hate and xenophobia in associating the coronavirus.
“THIS is how a President can & should denounce hate & inspire unity & inclusion!” California Assemblymember Rob Bonta wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii tweeted, “It matters when our president condemns hatred and violence against Asian Americans. Thank you President Biden for your strong words and moral leadership.”
Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 26, which included directives to remove language in federal actions or documents that would contribute to xenophobia and racism against the Asian American and Pacific Islander population and for the Department of Justice to expand its collection of data and public reporting regarding hate incidents against community members. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have been pushing for a meeting with the DOJ and the administration to carry out the order.
Democratic lawmakers, led by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) in the House of Represenatives and Hirono in the Senate, plan to introduce new legislation addressing the hate incidents against Asian Americans, according to USA Today.
“We want to continue to not only raise awareness, but also to try to help find real long-term solutions,” Meng told the outlet.