President Biden on Thursday night decried violence against Asian Americans who have been “harassed, blamed, and scapegoated” for the coronavirus, saying it is “wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”
Biden shared the message during his first prime-time address to the nation, ensuring that it was widely heard. Since COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, some people — including former President Donald Trump — have referred to the virus as “kung flu” and the “China plague.” Asian American health care workers have reported being harassed and threatened by patients, and there have been several high-profile attacks against Asian Americans walking on the street.
The nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate found that last March through December, there were more than 2,808 “hate incidents” committed against Asian Americans. Most victims — 71 percent — reported being verbally harassed, while 9 percent experienced physical violence. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there have been hundreds of attacks against Asian Americans reported, with two elderly men shoved to the ground earlier this year — one of them, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, died.
These are “vicious hate crimes,” Biden said, and many of the victims are “on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives, and still they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America.” In January, the president signed an executive order that prohibits the federal government from using “inflammatory and xenophobic” language and instructs the Justice Department to expand reporting, tracking, and prosecutions of “hate incidents.”