Mere days after the shooting in Atlanta, Georgia that took the lives of eight people—six of whom were Korean women—United States President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American lawmakers of the state, condemning racism, which they said sometimes hid “in plain sight.”
In light of this, Biden pushed for the passage of hate crime laws, specifically the Covid19 Hate Crimes Act that would fight violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities amid the global health crisis.
“Hate can have no safe harbor in America,” Biden said. “Our silence is complicity…We have to speak out. We have to act.”
Vice President Harris, the first person of South Asian descent to hold national office, echoed this sentiment: “Racism is real in America. And it always has been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been… We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs.”
This trip to the state’s capital was originally part of a victory lap aimed at promoting the benefits of passing pandemic relief legislation, the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. It was instead spent giving comfort to a community that helped seal their win in Georgia and neighboring areas.
Georgia Rep. Marvin Lim noted that the meeting did not focus on hate crime sentencing, but on the “grief and fear people are feeling.”
State leaders said they felt hopeful thanks to Harris’ presence. One Chinese American Democrat senator said: “Not only that she was there listening to us, but that she also understood these issues in a very intimate way, that in some ways you can’t teach, that you can’t teach that sort of lived experience.”
A spike in attacks against people of Asian descent has been observed in the past year, with almost 3,800 incidents being reported to California-based reporting center Stop AAPI Hate, as well as partner advocacy groups.