US President Joe Biden took new actions on Tuesday to push back against a recent wave of violent, racist attacks on Asian-Americans, according to the White House.
“Across our nation, an outpouring of grief and outrage continues at the horrific violence and xenophobia perpetrated against Asian-American communities, especially Asian-American women and girls,” said a White House statement.
The actions include building a new US task force to “ensure the federal government’s response to Covid-19 mitigates anti-Asian xenophobia and bias” and a new Justice Department programme that will collect hate crime data against Asian-Americans, as well as training law enforcement officers to spot anti-Asian bias.
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The administration also launched a new virtual library highlighting Asian-Americans’ contributions to the United States.
The White House announcement comes at the end of a month that has seen repeated, violent attacks against Asian-Americans, often in public spaces in broad daylight.
On Monday, a man in New York City walked up to a 65-year-old Asian-American woman, kicked her in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, and then kicked her in the head several times before walking away. Police have not yet identified the assailant.
Earlier in March, eight people – six of whom were Asian women – were killed in a shooting spree in Georgia. The suspect has been charged with murder.
A report published earlier this month by the group Stop AAPI Hate documented 3,795 hate incidents targeting Asian Americans over the last year, including harassment, civil rights violations and physical violence.
The group says those represent “only a fraction” of the total number of crimes that actually occur.
A separate study published on Tuesday by the group AAPI Data and SurveyMonkey found that 10 per cent of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) adults have experienced hate crimes and hate incidents in 2021 so far, higher than the national average of just 6 per cent.
Also on Tuesday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the Justice Department to conduct a review of how it can best deploy its resources to stop anti-Asian hate crimes.
In a memo to Justice Department employees, Garland cited the “recent rise in hate crimes and hate incidents, particularly the disturbing trend in reports of violence against members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community since the start of the pandemic.”
The rise in violence and racism targeting Asian-Americans has coincided with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and many observers have blamed former president Donald Trump for contributing to a mood that has ultimately led to attacks.
Trump had refused to stop using nicknames for the coronavirus that were widely condemned as racist against Asians, even as many Asian-Americans warned that the then-president was fanning the flames of anger against them.
Frank Wu, the president of Queens College and author of the book Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, said it was “wonderful” that Biden was taking action to combat anti-Asian racism.
“I’ve never seen this level of response from the White House on issues affecting Asian Americans,” Wu said. “I’m grateful. We’ve used unprecedented so much as a word during this challenge. This is unprecedented in a positive sense.
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