Nikki Schwab, Daily Mail, May 20, 2021
President Joe Biden slammed the ‘ugly poison’ of racism that’s ‘plagued’ the United States and then signed the anti-Asian hate crime bill at the White House Thursday.
He called the bipartisan passage of the legislation ‘maybe the first break, the first significant break, in a moment in our history that has to be turned around.’
And looked delighted when he first approached the podium with Vice President Kamala Harris to see a mask-less, not socially distant crowd, adhering to the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice that allows vaccinated people to gather mask-less indoors.
The White House invited 68 people to the ceremony, including one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Susan Collins, as well as family members of Heather Heyer, the young activist run over by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, and Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese immigrant who was shot by his neighbor.
‘I believe with every fiber in my being that there are simple, core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate. Against racism. The ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,’ Biden told the crowd. ‘You’ve taken that first step. It’s an important step.’
The bill, formally known as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act emboldens the Department of Justice to go after perpetrators of hate crimes.
In her opening remarks, Harris said the running total of hate crimes against Asians in the U.S. was 6,600 – and that’s likely an under-reporting.
‘I’m talking about a 61-year-old man getting kicked in the head, two elderly women being stabbed while waiting for the bus. Eight people in Atlanta getting shot on a Tuesday night,’ Harris said.
‘We heard about too many Asian-Americans have been waking up each morning this past year to genuinely, genuinely fearing for their safety,’ Biden said was his take-away from the meeting.
‘Moms and dads when they let their kids out the door to go to school were attacked, blamed, scapegoated, harassed during this pandemic,’ Biden continued. ‘Grandparents afraid to leave their homes even to get vaccinated for fear of being attacked. Small business owners targeted and gunned down. Students worried about two things: COVID-19 and being bullied.’
Biden also pointed out a discouraging statistic – that Asian women were twice as likely to be victims as Asian men.
An amendment folded into the bill was named for Jabara and Heyer.
Biden briefly asked their family members to stand, noting that the two were murdered on the same day, one year apart.
‘Instead of sharing the dreams they had for their children, both families share profound grief and have shown incredible courage to turn their pain into purpose,’ Biden said of the family members attending the East Room ceremony.
He said it took ‘enormous courage’ for them to come to the White House.
‘When you have to show up at something memorializing your family, it’s like you got the news 10 seconds ago,’ Biden said, adding that he was pulling from his own experiences with grief.
‘I really mean it when I say thank you, thank you for being here, it takes a lot of courage,’ Biden said.
Biden said, ‘Grief is universal.’
‘But so is hope, so is love. It sounds corny but it really is, it really is. And hope and love can be contagious,’ he said.
‘We’re the United States of America. We’re a good and decent people. We’re unique among all nations, that we are uniquely a product of a document – not an ethnicity, not a religion, not a geography, a document. Think about this, I’m being literal.’
‘Every time we’re silent. Every time we let hate flourish, we make a lie of who we are as a nation,’ Biden said, his voice growing louder. ‘I mean it literally. We cannot let the very foundation of this country be eaten away like it has been, in other moments of our history and happening again.’
More than just a statement against anti-Asian hate, the bill directs the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to issue new guidance on the rise in violence against Asians amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill expedites the DOJ’s review of anti-Asian hate crimes. It also assigns an official to be in charge of the task.