WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — House lawmakers held a hearing Thursday on violence against Asian Americans following a recent rise in attacks since the coronavirus entered the U.S., including a deadly shooting in Georgia this week that targeted women of Asian descent.
The meeting was scheduled before the series of shootings at three Atlanta-area spas Tuesday night left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent.
Many have raised concerns that the shootings are the latest in a string of hate crimes against Asian Americans, though police have suggested the suspect may have had other motives.
“What happens right now and over the course of the coming months will send a message for generations to come as to whether we matter, whether the country we call home chooses to erase or include us, dismiss us or respect us, invisibilize us or see us,” actor Daniel Dae Kim said at the hearing.
Congresswoman Judy Chu encouraged Congress to “takes bold action to address this pandemic of discrimination and hate.”
Republican lawmaker Chip Roy said the subject matter of the meeting was important, but then began attacking China’s treatment of its Uighur community and handling of the coronavirus. He added he hoped the hearing would address how affirmative action policies by U.S. universities hurt Asian Americans.
Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Grace Meng, referred to Roy’s comments in their own statements.
“Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don’t have to do it by putting a bullseye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids,” Meng said.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had planned a trip to Atlanta Friday to promote the coronavirus relief bill but canceled it following the shootings
Biden signed an executive order in January condemning anti-Asian xenophobia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order acknowledges the role rhetoric from politicians, including the use of derogatory names for the coronavirus.
Racism against Asian Americans has long been an ugly thread of U.S. history and was enshrined into law in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was designed to prevent Chinese American laborers from entering the U.S. as a result of widespread xenophobia.
Recent attacks, including the killing of an 84-year-old San Francisco man in February, have raised concerns about worsening hostilities toward Asian Americans. Nearly 3,800 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups, since March 2020. Nationally, women reported more than double the number of hate incidents compared with men.
Police in several major cities saw a sharp uptick in Asian-targeted hate crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
New York City went from three incidents to 27, Los Angeles from seven to 15, and Denver had three incidents in 2020 — the first reported there in six years.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. Reporting by AP’s Christine Fernando and Terry Tang.