Advocates, lawmakers demand end to anti-Asian hate crimes after Atlanta killings

Another bill is in the works to change the way hate crimes are reported in the United States. The effort is being led by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) And Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday on violence in Asia, America and the Pacific islanders. And lawyers inside and outside the Beltway are demanding more action from the Department of Justice, such as investigating incidents that traumatize Asian Americans – such as shouting racial slurs – but which cannot legally be classified as hate crimes.

Proponents also strive for a cultural change. They point to former President Donald Trump’s anti-Asian comments on the start of the coronavirus as a catalyst for the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year. Trump and his allies often referred to the virus as “kung flu” and “China virus”, alluding to its origins in Wuhan, China. Their rhetoric led to one 900 percent increase in anti-Asian Twitter traffic. The former president continued to use “China Virus” in an interview with Fox the night of the shooting.

“This is the aftermath of a full year in which Donald Trump uses the terms ‘China virus’ and ‘Wuhan virus’ and creates hatred,” said Rep. (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Caucus American Congress in Congress. said POLITICO.

“It is clear that the people were targeted because they are among the most vulnerable in our country: Asian migrant women,” she later said at a weekly press conference about the shooting.

Curbing these crimes is an important first step, according to proponents. However, they say that the leaders of Congress must also address the environment that led to the violence.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Asian-American interest group has been represented Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,795 cases of hate incidents. Of this, Asian-owned companies accounted for 35 percent. Another Analysis of the Center for Research on Hate and Extremism found hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by nearly 150 percent in 16 of America’s largest cities, particularly New York City and Los Angeles.

Tuesday’s fatal shootings at three Atlanta area spas are the culmination of a long history of racism and misogyny against Asian Americans, misinformation about the virus, and the president’s divisive rhetoric, advocates and lawmakers say. The majority of the victims were women; At least four were of Asian descent. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 21, is white and as of this writing was charged with at least four murders.

Atlanta police on Wednesday suggested that the alleged gunman’s self-proclaimed sexual addiction may have played a role in his decision to target the spas rather than racial prejudice. One police officer said the suspect had “had a really bad day”. These remarks added to the frustrations of proponents who say that blaming the suspect for his or her mental state detracts from the greater dynamics in the game.

“Racism is not necessarily a person who harms another person. It’s a systemic problem. It’s social, ”said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “We need to stop reacting legislation that basically puts band aids in situations that arise and dig deeper to address the root causes.”

Among them is a story of oversexualization of Asian women cited by several proponents as contributing to Tuesday’s violence. Longstanding stereotypes about Asian women being docile or submissive, Choimorrow explained, make them more prone to harassment. Stop AAPI Hate national data showed that Asian American women were more than twice as likely to report hate incidents as men.

“It has gone from a racial cover-up to a provocation that kills several Asian American women,” said Madalene Mielke, president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday night’s shootings were the result of mounting racism and violence against Asian Americans across the country.

“It’s unacceptable, it’s hateful and it has to stop,” Bottoms said. “We hear the stories. We see them on TV, we see them on social media.”

A number of officials condemned the violence in Atlanta on Wednesday, including New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“This speaks to a bigger problem, which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and always speak against it,” Harris told reporters at the White House. “The motive is not yet clear to us. But I would like to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has terrified, shocked and outraged everyone.”

Meng, the sponsor of last year’s original Covid-19 hate crime law, said the language has ramifications. She believes her legislation could counter anti-Asian rhetoric among those who used racist language because of misinformation. Part of the bill calls on the Minister of Health and Human Services, the White House Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, and community-level organizations to join forces to compile guidance on how to avoid racially discriminatory language when describing Covid-19.

“We were shockingly disappointed when our own president started using words like ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘kung flu’. And I was very nervous, like many people at that time, because in a time of fear he obviously had a very broad platform, “Meng told POLITICO.

“We were really afraid of how people would react to a leader like him with those words,” Meng said. “And we literally saw over the past year how his constant use of phrases like this contributed to these violent attacks across the country.”

Meng’s bill also names a Justice Department official who will expedite hate crime review and facilitate access to hate crime reporting by creating an online platform in multiple languages. The bill would also improve data collection. And their bill isn’t the only one that lawmakers put on hold In response to the rise in violence in Asia and America: Later this month, Democratic lawmakers are also planning to reintroduce the No Hate Act, a bill that could revamp the infrastructure for reporting hate crimes in the United States.

The current hate crime statistics collected by the FBI barely scratch the surface of the actual number of cases: out of approximately 18,000 local law enforcement agencies, 15,588 have submitted their hate crime data to the FBI, and 86.1 percent responded with zero hate crimesaccording to the agency’s latest report.

Even large cities with populations over 500,000 such as Houston, Baltimore and Philadelphia have not reported a single case. Hate crimes are unlikely not to occur in urban areas, proponents say. But police agencies cannot properly identify hate crimes due to a lack of training and, according to Chu, have little incentive to pin down the numbers, especially without oversight from the FBI or the Justice Department.

According to Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Who sponsored the original Senate version of the bill, the No Hate Act could solve these problems by providing grants for training and creating hotlines for hate crimes. And although it died in Congress last year, he believes its fate will be different this time.

“Tragically, what may be driving this legislation more urgently than before is the unfortunate increase in hate crimes that we have seen against groups like Asian Americans, Muslims and immigrants in general,” Blumenthal told POLITICO.

“The rise in hate crimes is directly linked to violent extremism fueled by white supremacists and others involved in hate crimes,” said Blumenthal. “And the wave that we saw is a cancer that is tearing apart the fabric of our entire society.”

In the meantime, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday to investigate the discrimination faced by Asian Americans during the pandemic, to raise awareness and gather expert opinions on possible solutions. Members will interview Chu, Meng, Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., And Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Who are all Asian-American lawmakers, as well as a number of Asian-American activists and academics.

Actions are brewing outside of Congress as well. Chu said CAPAC members met last week with Kristen Clarke, the DOJ’s nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. The group discussed the challenges of proving racial bias or intent in hate crimes and how this affects data collection.

Chu said there is no way to prosecute anti-Asian attacks / incidents – unlike hate crimes, which the FBI oversees, albeit inadequately, is technically not a crime like aggressive intimidation but is traumatizing, a void, the Clarke “promised” to address, said Chu.

Striving to accurately catalog hate crimes is critical to fighting them, said Beyer, who sponsored the in-house version of the No Hate Act last year.

“All of this goes back to this kind of basic idea that you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” Beyer told POLITICO. “If you don’t have any data, what do you make a decision about? Or how do you know if you are making progress? ”

Sarah Ferris and Marianne Levine contributed to this report.

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