Vice President Kamala Harris said it was important to acknowledge that racism exists in America before tackling it.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of race-motivated violence that some readers may find distressing
President Joe Biden has signed into law a bill that will address hate crimes against Asian Americans. The bill was passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate. There had been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic and this new bill aims at cracking down on hate crimes and creating a safer environment for the community. "My message to all of those who are hurting is we see you. The Congress said we see you. And we are committed to stop the hatred and the bias," said Biden, after signing the bill into law on Thursday, reported NBC News.
Hate has no place in America – and I look forward to making that clear this afternoon by signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law.— President Biden (@POTUS) May 20, 2021
According to an analysis by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, in March, anti-Asian hate crimes spiked by nearly 150 percent across major cities last year. The bill was passed in the House with a 364-62 majority after the Senate voted in favor of it 94-1 last month. Vice President Kamala Harris along with nearly two dozen members of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were present at the signing ceremony. Those present included relatives of Heather Heyer, who was killed after a man drove the car into a crowd protesting White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese American shot in front of his home in 2016. The legislation was introduced by Representative Grace Meng and Senator Mazie Hirono to make reporting hate crimes easier.
"This violence — it did not come from nowhere, and none of it is new. In my life, my lived experience, I have seen how hate can pervade our communities," said Kamala Harris, who's also the first Asian American Vice President, reported NPR. "I have seen how hate can impede our progress. And I have seen how people uniting against hate can strengthen our country." Harris added that there was no point denying the existence of racism and said it's important to address it. "Here's the truth: Racism exists in America. Xenophobia exists in America, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia — it all exists. And so the work to address injustice wherever it exists remains the work ahead," she said.
The new legislation will help the Justice Department expedite hate crimes reported in connection with Coronavirus. The Justice Department will also institute easier ways to report hate crimes online and also perform public outreach on the matter. The Department of Health and Human Services will be required to issue guidance that raises awareness on anti-Asian hate crimes over the last year. Grants will be made available to states to establish reporting hotlines. A series of shootings at spas in Atlanta in March saw eight people being killed, of whom six were of Asian descent. This was followed by a spate of hate crimes against the Asian American community.
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders make our nation stronger.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 15, 2021
As we continue our celebration of AANHPI heritage this month, we are focused on advancing equity, and rooting out racial injustices in our federal institutions.
The organization Stop AAPI Hate said there were 6,603 hate incidents between March 2020 to March 2021. Stop AAPI Hate lauded the legislation for investing in "community-centered solutions and provisions to mitigate anti-Asian rhetoric" but added that more needs to be done to address the root causes of systemic racism and oppression. "It will not address the overwhelming majority of incidents reported to our site which are not hate crimes, but serious hate incidents," said the organization in a statement.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the bill was an important step towards combating acts of hate and intolerance. "The Department of Justice is proud to play a central role in implementing this legislation," said Garland in a statement. "Investigating and prosecuting hate crimes is a top priority, deeply rooted in the department's founding. We will use the new law to enhance the aggressive measures we are taking to combat crime motivated by bigotry and discrimination."