In a trip to Georgia on Friday, President Joe Biden condemned rising hate crimes against Asian-Americans in the wake of a shooting rampage in the Atlanta-area that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent.
“Whatever the motivation, we know this: too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying. Waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are stake. They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed."
By his side was Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian-American to hold the post.
In her remarks, she indirectly criticized former President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”
"For the last year, we've had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans, people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate. Ultimately, this is about who we are as a nation. This is about how we treat people with dignity and respect."
The shootings this week at three spas in and around the city have rattled Asian-Americans already grappling with a rise in hate crimes.
The suspected gunman, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder.
Investigators said Long suggested that sexual frustration led him to commit violence, though political leaders and civil rights advocates have speculated the killings were motivated at least in part by rising anti-Asian sentiment.
Before heading to Georgia, Biden called on U.S. lawmakers to quickly pass a COVID-19 hate crimes bill, saying while the motive was still unknown in the Georgia killings, the nation faced an "ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence."
Biden and Harris's trip was planned before the shooting to promote the newly enacted $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
But they instead spent much of their visit consoling a community left reeling after the attacks.