Nearly a week after the shooting rampage at Atlanta area spas, which claimed the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, members of Congress are working to ensure that the tragic event doesn't just fall by the wayside and that solutions are being actively pursued.
Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J. 3rd District) said that one of his biggest concerns is that once the news cycle moves on, Americans will forget about the very real threat that remains against Asian and Asian American people.
"I'm working with the White House, with the Department of Justice, with congressional leaders, and community leaders around this country to try to find ways to institutionalize this discussion and try to make sure that we build on it and we don't let it dissipate when the headlines start to go away," Kim told Cheddar.
Non-profit group Stop AAPI Hate released a report in March that detailed thousands of incidents in the U.S. against Asian Americans since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. However, like the group, Kim suspects the numbers are drastically underreported from within the Asian American community. He said that for too long these people have felt unseen and unheard when it comes to instances of discrimination and hate.
Kim's hope is that the Atlanta-area mass shooting will force America to face head-on the social issues plaguing the Asian community and take real steps toward change.
Since President Donald Trump vehemently blamed China for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic from the outbreak originating in its Wuhan province, his charged rhetoric has been amplified by some Republicans in Washington, which Kim said has made it difficult for Democrats to work across the aisle on effective solutions.
"When I see that kind of rhetoric coming from my colleagues or others, it just adds to this pile of feeling like we're invisible, that people either don't care or don't want to actually learn what is happening. They just want to change the subject," Kim said.
While the pandemic certainly exacerbated attacks the Asian American community faces today, discrimination and hate have been a longstanding problem. Kim said it has been "a deep cut" in American society likely to persist after the pandemic wanes unless the community and its allies keep applying pressure for systemic changes.
"Just look at us. Just pay attention to this moment right now and understand the hurt and the pain that the Asian American community faces," Kim said.