President Joe Biden called on Congress Friday to "swiftly" pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act days after six Asian American women were killed in Georgia.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y, District 6), would create a position at the Justice Department that would specifically deal with handling and reviewing hate crimes related to the pandemic. A recent study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University, San Bernardino, found that although hate crimes dropped overall in the U.S. in 2020, crimes against people of Asian descent jumped nearly 150 percent. If passed, the new law would also expand resources dedicated to stopping these crimes.
"It also means working with law enforcement, training law enforcement to communicate with Asian American communities, and helping those communities be able to report those crimes," Rep. Mark Takano (D- Calif. 41st District) told Cheddar.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American leaders in Atlanta on Friday, three days after eight people were killed at area spas, six of the victims being women of Asian descent. Biden urged Congress to pass the legislation so the federal government can offer aid.
Takano noted that Biden has already signed executive orders directing agencies to turn their attention to the rise of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. He said it will take strong leadership to guide the country in the right direction, noting the rhetoric Americans have heard from former President Donald Trump.
"This has been a huge change in tone from the last president," he said.
Americans need "leadership that doesn't use words like 'kung flu' or 'China virus' to describe a pathogen that comes from nature and therefore leave a whole population of Asian Americans subject to being stigmatized and blamed for something that they're not responsible for," Takano added.
The congressman said former President Trump's language toward Asians was simply an attempt to "distract from his low, inadequate ways."
Though the California representative said it is often difficult to prove hate crimes in a courtroom, creating systems where individuals can safely and confidently report incidents could help improve chances for more favorable outcomes.
"Regardless of what the assailant said, the murderer said, and how the local sheriff characterized it," said Takano, "It very much looks to those of us in the Asian community and broader, that this was really an attack on people based on their descent, their Asian-ness. But the legal standard is a much different thing."