“I believe, with every fiber of my being, that there are simple, core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, against racism — an ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden told a group of advocates, agency officials and a bipartisan group of lawmakers inside the East Room of the White House. “Today I can say that because of all of you … you’ve taken that first step.”
In a sign of progress toward more normalcy since the start of the pandemic, Thursday’s bill signing marked the first time a large group publicly gathered inside the White House unmasked since the start of the Biden administration.
It will also direct the Justice Department and Health and Human Services to work with community-based organizations to issue guidance raising awareness of hate crimes during the pandemic, and would require the attorney general to issue guidance to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to establish online reporting of them.
The President recalled his visit to Atlanta in the wake of a series of deadly shootings at spas in the area. Eight people were killed in those shootings, six of whom were Asian women.
“We heard about the pain, their fear, anger, and all that existed in the community, feelings. They felt invisible — not seen,” Biden said, later adding that “the conversation we had in Atlanta is one we’re hearing all across the country, that all of this hate hides in plain sight.”
“We heard out too many Asian Americans have been waking up each morning this past year, genuinely — genuinely — fearing for their safety,” Biden remarked, saying Asians in the US have been “living in fear for their lives” and are being “attacked, blamed, scapegoated, harassed during this pandemic.”
“Grandparents afraid to leave their homes even to get vaccinated, for fear of being attacked. Small business owners targeted and gunned down. Students worried about two things: Covid-19 and being bullied,” he continued.
Separately, Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans, says it has received more than 6,000 firsthand complaints since last year. The group began tracking violence and harassment on March 19 last year as more Asian Americans were verbally and physically assaulted while erroneously being blamed for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Biden called for Americans to “speak up” about hate crimes, adding that “silence is complicity.”
He also underscored that the US is “unique among all nations in that we are uniquely a product of a document” and not of a religion or ethnicity.
“Every time we let hate flourish we make a lie of who we are as a nation. I mean it literally. We cannot let the very foundation of this country continue to be eaten away like it has been in other moments in our history and happening again,” Biden asserted.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Thursday.
CNN’s Clare Foran, Josh Campbell, Nicole Chavez and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.Source link