The House passed a resolution Thursday to denounce the racism toward Asian Americans that has risen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The measure demands the condemnation of all forms of racism and scapegoating and calls on public officials to denounce any anti-Asian sentiment. While the legislation won heavy Democratic support, it also got some Republican backing, passing 243-164. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., the resolution's main sponsor, said the vote showed that "the House said, 'Enough.'"
"For months, Asian Americans in my home state of New York and in communities throughout the nation have been verbally and physically attacked, spat on and shunned," Meng said. "Enough of the demeaning usages of 'Chinese virus,' 'Wuhan virus' and 'Kung-flu,' especially from our nation's leaders, such as President Trump, GOP leader McCarthy and others. Enough of the scapegoating. Enough of using the Asian American community to stoke people's fears about Covid-19."
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is the House minority leader.
Meng added: "The House made clear that we reject this xenophobia and violence, and I thank all who joined me in standing up to bigotry and ugliness against Asian Americans. Everybody deserves to feel safe in the country we call home."
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The legislation, which was introduced in March, also calls for authorities to investigate and collect data about coronavirus-related hate crimes, which have continued to rise since the pandemic began. The reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate received 2,583 reports of anti-Asian discrimination nationwide over about five months. New York City alone reported more than 248 incidents of harassment and discrimination related to Covid-19 from February to April, with over 40 percent identified as anti-Asian incidents.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said it was important for the nation's leaders to send a clear message rejecting bigotry. She said the legislation likely passed because of the "dire nature" of the anti-Asian sentiment across the country.
But the support for an Asian American-centered issue also, in part, speaks to the importance of representation among legislators, Chu said. She said there is a record number of Asian American and Pacific Islander members of Congress, about 20.
"It is significant that it was able to be passed on, but it is also a result of the fact that we do have more representation in Congress," Chu said. "We were able to educate our fellow members of Congress about what was going on to the Asian community with regard to these Covid-19 hate crimes and incidents."
Chu said the support the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus got from other congressional caucuses, including those representing Black, Latino and Native American lawmakers, was fundamental in pushing back against pandemic-related racism.
Chu said she suspects that those who voted against the measure did not want to put blame on President Donald Trump for anti-Asian American racism. But she and many of her colleagues disagree. Trump has often used terms like "China virus" and "kung flu," which many say perpetuate the racist association between Asian Americans and the virus. Some of the reports documented by Stop AAPI Hate said support for Trump was indicated.
"We feel that Trump stoked the flames of xenophobia by continuing to call it the 'China virus,' the 'Wuhan virus' and even 'Kung flu,' despite the fact that it was pointed out to him many, many times that it was the thing that fanned the flames against Asian Americans in this country," she said.
Chu said that with widespread backing, particularly from other leaders of color, it's the Asian American community's duty to lift others who are also fighting for racial justice, citing police reform as a major issue that she and other lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus and beyond are working toward. She said the Congressional Tri-Caucus and the Native American Caucus have been denouncing police brutality and pushing for a measure called the Justice and Policing Act.
"It is so important for us to support others who are vulnerable and need this kind of support," she said.