Amongst many directives, the White House announced a new task force to address coronavirus-fueled xenophobia against Asian Americans.
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of race-motivated violence that some readers may find distressing.
President Joe Biden has announced that new measures will be implemented to curb the attacks on and harassment of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. America has witnessed a sharp rise in hate crimes including physical assaults on the communities over the past year. "Across our nation, an outpouring of grief and outrage continues at the horrific violence and xenophobia perpetrated against Asian American communities, especially Asian American women and girls," read a statement from the White House, reported NPR. "As President Biden said during his first prime time address, anti-Asian violence and xenophobia is wrong, it's un-American, and it must stop."
By passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, we can help put an end to the violence terrorizing Asian Americans across the country and #StopAAPIHate.— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) March 30, 2021
Being Asian is not a virus, COVID is. pic.twitter.com/UJ6ntpmJsW
The move from President Biden comes within two weeks of a gunman killing six women of Asian descent at three massage parlors in Atlanta. Hate crimes against the Asian-American community rose sharply over the year after many blamed the Coronavirus pandemic on China and subsequently on the Asian-American community. Former President Donald Trump referring to the virus as "China virus" didn't help matters with many Republicans taking cues from the President to echo similar statements. A study based on police department statistics across major U.S. cities found that there was nearly a 150% surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, while overall hate crimes fell by 7%.
The White House added that the President would appoint a permanent director to lead the coordination of policies across the federal government. This move comes on the back of requests from many community advocates. The new directive from the White House will:
1. Reestablish the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, with an initial emphasis on ending anti-Asian bias and violence
2. Increase funding for AAPI survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault
3. Establish a task force to address coronavirus-fueled xenophobia against Asian Americans
4. Establish a cross-agency Justice Department initiative to investigate anti-Asian violence
5. This includes expanding the number of languages available for translation on the agency's hate crime website and training state and local law enforcement officials on how to report hate crimes
6. Launch federal projects to celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans to the country
7. Fund National Science Foundation research on discrimination and xenophobia
Over his four years in office, Donald Trump nominated a series of extreme, unqualified, and ideologically-driven judges to lifetime appointments that will have an enduring impact on issues such as a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, and civil rights.— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) March 30, 2021
The new directives will be in addition to January's Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Senator Mazie Hirono from Hawaii tweeted, "Racism is never far below the surface in America, which is all too evident as the AAPI community has experienced escalating attacks and targeted violence during the pandemic."
White House Press secretary Jen Psaki also confirmed that the administration is committed to naming a "high-level ... member of the AAPI community to a position in the White House, and that's something we're working to do through consultation with a range of officials and elected officials as well, and that person will be a commissioned officer and will be working on both policy and outreach." Psaki made the statement after being questioned about the lack of representation at the leadership level. "In the coming weeks the administration will meet with AAPI leaders to hear their input on how we can play the most constructive role possible in the community," added Psaki.
Earlier this month, Biden had called for an end to the "vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans." The President said the community was being needlessly attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated. "At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, are on the 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. It's wrong, it's un-American, and it must stop," said the President, reported NBC News.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Drew Angerer