Biden condemns anti-Asian violence, ‘ugly poison’ of racism
President Biden called on Americans to unite against hate and racism, condemning the rise in attacks against Asian Americans and the recent shootings in Atlanta during a trip to the area Friday.
“I believe that with every fiber of my being there are some core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, against racism, the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden said in remarks at Emory University in Atlanta.
Biden, speaking along Vice President Harris following a meeting with Asian American leaders, noted that although the motive of Tuesday’s shooting in Atlanta that killed six people of Asian descent is not yet known, it comes amid an increase in violence against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Whatever the motivation, we know this. Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake. They have been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed, they’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed,” Biden said.
Biden and Harris delivered remarks after meeting with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) and local Asian American leaders, including representatives from local advocacy organizations and members of the state legislature to discuss the rise in anti-Asian attacks.
Biden spoke just days after a gunman killed eight individuals, six of them Asian women, at three different massage parlors in the Atlanta area. While authorities have not yet established that race was a motivation, the events have nevertheless exacerbated concerns about a surge of violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
An analysis of police data released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that anti-Asian hate crimes in the largest U.S. cities rose by roughly 150 percent in 2020.
The White House and others have asserted that former President Trump’s rhetoric during the pandemic — his use of the terms “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” to refer to the coronavirus — contributed to the rise in attacks against Asian Americans.
Without referencing Trump by name, Harris in her own remarks introducing Biden mentioned people in positions of power who for the last year have been “scapegoating Asian Americans, people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate.”
“A harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us. The president and I will not be silent, we will not stand by, we will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination wherever and whenever it occurs,” Harris said.
“We’re learning again what we have always known — words have consequences,” Biden said later. “Hate and violence often hide in plain sight, it’s often met with silence. That has to change because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit.”
Biden and Harris had been slated to travel to Atlanta as part of their efforts to promote the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill the president signed into law last week. They adjusted the trip to postpone a political event and add the meetings with local leaders after the shooting. Biden still used a portion of his remarks to advocate for the rescue plan after addressing the recent violence.
Biden on Friday said that in the days ahead he and Harris will be regularly briefed by Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray on the shooting.
Police said Wednesday that the 21-year-old shooter, Robert Aaron Long, confessed to the killings and said that he targeted the spas because of a “sex addiction.”
The four victims who were shot dead at two spas in Atlanta were identified earlier Friday as Soon C. Park, Hyun J. Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong A. Yue.
Biden also used his remarks to call on Congress to “swiftly pass” hate crimes legislation meant to expedite the federal government’s response to the rise in hate crimes during the coronavirus pandemic, invoking the shooting earlier this week.
“For all the good that laws can do, we have to change our hearts. hate can have no safe harbor in America. It must stop. It’s on all of us, all of us together to make it stop,” he said.