Biden, whose speech marks one year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, criticized how Americans have “too often, we’ve turned against one another” in this pandemic. He said that rather than work with one another, 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 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’s comments come after a memorandum he signed in January that denounced the discrimination directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander community throughout the pandemic. And today, lawmakers announced that they would build off the executive action, reintroducing a bill that would equip law enforcement with added support to address hate crimes related to the COVID-19 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 earlier this month. New York City and Los Angeles observed particularly high increases.
The decline in overall hate crimes can likely be explained by the pandemic and subsequent lack of interaction in public areas and other gathering places including public transit, commercial businesses, schools and houses of worship, according to the analysis. However, anti-Asian hate crimes rose along with the spread COVID-19 cases and the perpetuation of the negative associations of Asian Americans with the virus. Researchers said the first spike occurred in March and April last year.
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.