‘Have to Speak Out, Have to Act’: Biden Denounces Anti-Asian Hate
Biden also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House as a mark of respect for the Atlanta victims.
In light of the recent Atlanta spa shootings, where six Asian-American women lost their lives among the eight who died, US President Joe Biden on Friday, 19 March, denounced the alleged rise in hate-crimes against Asian-Americans.
Biden said that racist attacks against Asian-Americans have been “skyrocketing,” referring to data by the group Stop AAPI Hate, which said that close to 3,800 racist attacks, including verbal and physical assaults, discrimination and civil rights abuses targeting Asian-Americans have been reported since the pandemic began.
The group was formed in March 2020 precisely to counter Anti-Asian bias and report the rising xenophobic incidents, since the former US President Trump kept calling COVID-19 the ‘China virus’.
After having met Georgia’s Asian-American community leaders, Biden briefly spoke at Atlanta’s Emory University and said that racism was “the ugly poison that’s long haunted our nation. Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.”
Biden’s trip was originally scheduled to focus on the fight against COVID-19. However, in view of the Atlanta shootings, Biden and Kamala Harris decided to meet with Asian-American community leaders and hear messages from the victims’ families.
Stephanie Cho, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, told CNN that, "It was very emotional to hear messages by the victims' families read aloud to the president and vice president.”
For many, it was a sombre moment for the President and Vice-President to not only see the racism but also make the Asian-American community feel heard.
Eight people were shot dead at three spas in the Atlanta area of Georgia in the US on Tuesday, 17 March. It is believed that the crimes targeted people of Asian descent, since six of the women killed were Asian.
About 150 miles south of Atlanta, a 21-year-old white suspect, identified as Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, was captured after a manhunt by the Atlanta Police and a subsequent car chase by a state trooper in Crisp Country on Tuesday.
According to police officers, Long admitted carrying out the attacks, but he claimed that he was not motivated by racial hatred, rather a sexual temptation he needed to eliminate in order to resolve a personal conflict.
The motive has yet not been confirmed but seems to be a harrowing mix of sexism and racism in the United States.
Who Are the Deceased Victims?
The four women killed in Atlanta – at two neighbouring spas – were named on Friday by the Fulton County medical examiner's office as Hyun J Grant (51); Soon C Park, (74); Yong A Yue (63), and Suncha Kim (69).
Grant worked at the Gold Spa and is survived by her two sons – Randy Park (23) was able to collect around $1.9 million in donations through a fundraising page by Friday.
Park wrote, “She was a single mother who dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I. Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world.”
Xiaojie Tan, Young's Asian Massage’s 49-year-old owner was described as "the sweetest, kindest, most giving person" by a longtime customer, Greg Hynson, speaking to The New York Times.
Biden also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings until 22 March, as a mark of respect for the Atlanta victims. The House of Representatives, too, held a moment of silence on Friday.
(With inputs from CNN and The New York Times.)
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