President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called on the US to unite against hatred and speak out against violence against Asian Americans in a speech in Atlanta on Friday.
“Harm to one of us is harm to all of us,” said Harris, the country’s first Asian-American vice president.
The public statements came after the President and Vice President met with Asian American leaders in Georgia after the Atlanta area rampage that killed eight people, including six Asian women.
While law enforcement was still investigating the suspect’s motive, both Biden and Harris realized: the shootings are taking place amid mounting discrimination and violence against Asians and Asian Americans, and the country must work together to address the problem.
“Hate and violence are often hidden in public. There is often silence,” said Biden. “Our silence is complicit. We cannot be complicit. We have to express ourselves. We have to act.”
“It is up to all of us, all of us together, to stop it,” said the president, emphasizing that “words have consequences”.
Biden called on Congress to pass hate crime law to combat the rise in violence against Asian Americans during the Covid pandemic and the law against violence against women.
“I believe with every fiber in my being there are simply some core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans, and one of them stands together against hatred, against racism – the ugly poison that has long plagued our nation . ” Said Biden.
President Joe Biden speaks after meeting executives from the Georgian Asian-American and Pacific islander communities at Emory University in Atlanta on Friday, March 19, 2021 while Vice President Kamala Harris listens.
Patrick Semansky | AP
The president, who himself mourned the loss of family members, offered words of comfort to the families of those who lost their lives in the shootings.
“I assure you the one you lost will always be with you,” said Biden. “The day will come when her memory will bring a smile to your face before it brings a tear to your eye, incredible as this is. It will be a while. And I promise you it will come. When it does doing that, it’s the day you know you will make it. “
The meeting with Asian American lawmakers and community advocates was held at Emory University, where Biden and Harris later made their comments.
The Atlanta visit, Biden and Harris’ first trip together since taking office, was originally part of a national tour that announced the passage of the $ 1.9 trillion Covid aid package. The White House announced Thursday that it would postpone the planned political event after the deadly shootings and focus on increasing discrimination and violence against Asian Americans.
The President and Vice-President will also meet with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on the Covid pandemic.
Biden and Harris also planned to meet with proxy and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams during their visit to Atlanta, a White House official told NBC News.
The official said Abrams “played a leading role in accessing voting and protecting voters, and she will be an important partner in taking important action in this important area in the future.”
Abrams is widely credited for her years of electoral mobilization efforts that fueled Georgia’s democratic victories in the November presidential runoff and January Senate runoff.
The President and Vice President meeting with Abrams comes as civil rights activists in Georgia roll back voting restrictions proposed by Republican lawmakers. The activists are calling on Biden and Congress to pass federal voting rights, such as the For the People Act introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.