A bevy of Asian-American leaders and activists will testify before a House Civil Rights panel Thursday about increasing discrimination and violence against their communities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 10 a.m. hearing will examine ways to prevent racial attacks as it examines both historical and recent forms of discrimination against Asian Americans, House Justice Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., said in a press release .
“The United States has a long history of anti-Asian racism, especially in times of social or economic turmoil,” said Nadler. “Unfortunately, this bigotry has put its ugly head back on its feet since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The hearing comes amid skyrocketing reports of incidents against Asian Americans. It also comes days after a rampage at three spas in and around Atlanta, Georgia that killed eight people, six of whom were reportedly Asian women.
There are “legitimate concerns that these killings may have been racially motivated,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said in the Senate Wednesday morning.
“There is bigotry in the country and far too much of it,” added Schumer, lamenting that “a kind of superego that puts these things down seems to be weakened and the id seems to have strengthened.”
The live-stream hearing before the Constitutional, Civil Rights and Liberties Subcommittee is said to include testimony from several Asian American lawmakers, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., The first Thai American to be elected to Congress. The other lawmakers are MPs Doris Matsui and Judy Chu from California and Grace Meng from New York.
Other witnesses include leaders of Asian-American interest groups such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. Also on the list are attorney Wencong Fa of the Pacific Legal Foundation and Charles Lehman of the Manhattan Institute, as well as three university professors.
House Justice Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) speaks during a House Justice Committee hearing into the impeachment investigation of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, United States, on December 4, 2019.
Saul Loeb | Reuters
Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim, known for his roles in the hit television series “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0”, is also listed as a witness.
Kim has previously spoken out against the growing problem of anti-Asian violence, partly blaming the incendiary rhetoric of former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly referred to Covid as the “China virus” despite criticism that such language is accused of being racist.
“There’s no question that I think his rhetoric has had an impact, but there are a number of politicians who have followed in those footsteps,” Kim told USA Today earlier this month.
“Blaming one person doesn’t do the situation justice. It’s really about the disrespect that has been shown to a whole group of Americans,” he added in the interview. “This, in my opinion, is the most important thing in all of this: you may have problems with the Chinese government and possibly even problems with certain Chinese people, but the people attacked are Americans in America who are often unrelated to China, and especially the Chinese government . “
Trump has continued to refer to Covid-19 as the “China virus” since leaving office after one term.
Reported hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased since the virus, which experts believe originated in China’s central city of Wuhan, turned into a pandemic last March.
Advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate announced Tuesday that it had received 3,795 reports of hate incidents against Asian Americans and islanders in the Pacific between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021.
The group said in a press release that these reported incidents “represent only a fraction of the number of actual hate incidents, but they show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination and what types of discrimination they face.”
Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have urged Congress to pass laws aimed at improving hate crime reporting and providing greater support to victims.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both discussed the rise in attacks on Asian Americans.
“We have turned against each other too often,” Biden said in a speech last week on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.
The president declared “vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been attacked, molested, accused and scapegoated” saying, “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it has to stop.”
Harris vowed in mid-February that the Biden administration would “continue to commit to combating racism and discrimination”.
Biden signed an executive order against xenophobia against Asian Americans on January 26th. Proponents welcomed the move but claimed that it was not enough.
“This dark chapter in American history is a moment when accountability and action are needed to achieve justice and peace,” said the California legislative caucus for islanders in the Asia-Pacific region.