By Ethan Resnik
On Tuesday March 16, tragedy struck as six Asian Americans were killed in Atlanta.
“Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian,” The mayor of Atlanta Keisha Bottoms said. “We also know that this is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”
On Wednesday, the police named the victims of the shooting at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, GA: Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth, Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta, Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw and Daoyou Feng, 44, according to The New York Times.
The senseless murders have sent waves of despair and grief through the Asian American community amid a rise in attacks against Asian Americans during the pandemic as well as long-standing patterns of hate.
In May 2020, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated “the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” and urged governments to “act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.”
The rise in hate crimes targeting Asian communities is global. There have been increased reports coming from Canada, Italy, Russia and Brazil. In New Zealand, research by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission released last month found that 54% of Chinese respondents had experienced discrimination since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, U.K. police data suggest a 300% rise in hate crimes toward Chinese, East and South Asian people according to Time.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta on Friday to express grief for the victims of the mass shooting. “They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed,” Biden said after a meeting with leaders of Atlanta’s Asian-American community.
The vice president offered little doubt about what she believed and whom she blamed for stoking the violence, alluding to, without directly naming, former President Donald. Trump repeatedly blamed the pandemic on what he called the “China virus,” according to the New York Times.
During his first week in office, Biden signed an executive order directing his government to work toward stopping “anti-Asian bias, xenophobia and harassment.” On Friday, he urged Congress to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, which he said would “expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic.”
The legislation is sponsored by two Asian Americans lawmakers: Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY). The legislation would make it easier for people to report hate crimes linked to the pandemic by helping to establish online threat-reporting systems.
It would also direct administration officials to review existing federal, state and local hate crime laws. “We’ve seen the horrifying consequences of racist language as AAPI communities across our country experience hate crimes and violence related to the pandemic,” Senator Hirono of Hawaii said. “The bill also provides resources for communities to come together and fight intolerance and hate. This is no less than victims deserve.”