in their solemn speeches at Emory University, Biden and Harris claimed one of the central roles of recent U.S. presidents, which is not only to convey empathy after a tragic incident like Tuesday’s shootings, but also to provide moral clarity on issues of race, said CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali. That responsibility was one that Trump repeatedly shied away from, from his moral equivalence on protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, to the way he turned a blind eye to lifting last year’s anti-Asian attacks.
“A president has a unique position to help eliminate prejudice and dispel some of the fears,” while reminding Americans of the “best angels” of their nature, Naftali said. “Calling racism is not a partisan act. And I think those who see it as a partisan act, don’t understand the nature of racism in the United States.”
He also used his speech to acknowledge the dark history of racism in the United States toward people of Asian descent, from discrimination against Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad to the internment of more than 120,000 North Japanese. Americans during World War II. Both Biden and Harris also tried to shed light on the intimidation, harassment, and fear that many Asian Americans have experienced during the pandemic.
Referring to Tuesday’s killings in Atlanta, Biden said that “whatever the motivation” of the killer, the fact remains that “too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying; the security of your loved ones is at stake. “
“They have been attacked, blamed, scapegoat and harassed,” Biden said. “They have been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted and murdered. The documented incidents of hatred against American Asians have experienced a dramatic increase over the past year,” he added, noting that many incidents were never reported.
“We’re re-learning what we’ve always known: words have consequences,” Biden said, alluding to insults from Trump and others over the past year. “It’s the coronavirus. The end point … Hatred and violence are often hidden from view. It is often found in silence … But that must change, because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to talk outside, we have to act. “
Many members of the AAPI community wanted Biden and Harris to lead police officers more strongly toward investigating spa shots as a hate crime, although Biden made it a point to try to say which would avoid directing law enforcement or the Department of Justice. officials on how to conduct their investigations.
Harris, a former California attorney general and attorney general, seemed the closest to making his own opinion clear by stating that there were indisputable facts about the incidents.
“Six of the eight people killed Tuesday night were of Asian descent. Seven were women,” Harris said. “The shootings took place in companies owned by American Asians. The shootings occurred as violent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans have increased dramatically over the past year, and more.”
“Everything is harmful and unfortunately it’s not new. Racism is real in America and always has been,” Harris said. “Xenophobia is real in America and always has been. Sexism too.”
Urge the passage of anti-hate crime legislation
The way Biden and Harris shed light on racism and violence against Asian Americans marks a correction for Trump, but also a return to the more traditional role presidents have played as the country’s moral authority since former President John F. Kennedy set a marker stating that civil rights were a moral issue for the presidency, Naftali said.
“President Trump was an aberration among modern presidents,” said Naftali, who teaches at New York University. “Since Kennedy, the moral defense of civil rights has been part of the responsibilities of the heads of state of this country. It does not mean that everyone has assumed it with purpose and passion. But many of them have.”
The growing political power of Asian Americans
Staying on the side of members of the Asian American community, whose voters have had an increasing influence in the recent presidential and congressional elections, will be not only a moral imperative, but a political one.
Yet in this deeply polarized nation where Trump’s demonization policy left a long shadow, it is still unclear how Congress will react to Biden’s call for the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act to be passed immediately. of the features of the Atlanta spa.
Some Republicans were hesitant to comment on the shots at the Atlanta spas and whether they had a racial motivation. And the bill could reach the political winds of Congress, where some Republicans have championed Trump’s use of the term “China virus.”
“Your president, your party, and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country you want, but you don’t have to do that by putting an eye on the backs of Asian Americans all over this country, our grandparents , to our children, ”Meng said in a passionate response to Roy. “This hearing was to address the pain and sorrow of our community and look for solutions and we will not let you take our voice.”
When the House’s minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, was asked Thursday whether he regretted using the term “China virus,” he replied, “I don’t know” and said people should wait to see “why the shooter did what he did.” At the same time, the California Republican said he unequivocally condemned violence and discrimination against Asian Americans.
The Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would provide more funding for the Department of Justice to combat the types of hate crimes that have become too common during the pandemic, would help state and local governments pass the crime report. ‘hate and improve the education of Asian Americans. communities on how to report hate crimes.
But he acknowledged that there is a limit to what legislation can do.
“For all the good laws we can make, we need to change our heart,” Biden said in Atlanta. “Hatred can’t have a safe harbor in America. It has to stop. It’s up to us all, all together to make it stop.”
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