Washington [US], March 19 (ANI): The US House Judiciary Committee's civil rights committee on Thursday held a hearing, condemning the rise of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
In the first meeting held by Congress on anti-Asian bias in the country in over 30 years, lawmakers highlighted the incendiary rhetoric that many believe has contributed to increased bigotry, according to The Hill.
This comes after eight people were shot dead late Tuesday at massage parlours around the Atlanta metropolitan area in the US state of Georgia. Police have taken the suspected gunman, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, into custody.
According to the New York Times, the incident caused outrage and fear in the Asian-American community as the shootings claimed the lives of six women of Asian descent, although the suspect denied racial bias once in custody
"For many Asian Americans, Tuesday's shocking events felt like the inevitable culmination of a year in which there were nearly 3,800 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate incidents that grew increasingly more violent over time as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened," subpanel Chairman Steve Cohen.
"When politicians use terms like 'China Virus' or 'Kung Flu' ... is the effect -- intentional or not -- of putting a target on the backs of all Asian Americans," Cohen said.
The hearing featured two panels: one with Asian American members of Congress and another with lawyers, scholars and public figures, reported The Hill.
During the hearing, several speakers highlighted past laws that openly discriminated against Asian Americans, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the Immigration Act of 1924 and the nationwide internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.
Erika Lee, an award-winning author and director of the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center, said during her testimony that it's "vital" to realize the rise of hate incidents against Asian Americans are "not random acts perpetrated by deranged individuals."
Republican members of the panel offered their condolences to the families of the victims of Tuesday's violence and spoke about the proliferation of crime in the country and the discrimination against Asian Americans in the classroom.
Representative Chip Roy blamed the pandemic on the Chinese Communist Party and argued that any policies that would criminalise hate speech would infringe upon free speech.
Meanwhile, Atlanta law enforcement officials have shied away from calling the killings a hate crime, instead referencing the shooter's alleged "sex addiction" in a press conference on Wednesday, reported The Hill.
Whether they were "sex-based or race-based," the killings were undoubtedly "hate-based" and targeted against Asian women, said Representative Hank Johnson.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki slammed former President Donald Trump, saying that his rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic had fuelled discrimination against Asian Americans.
"I think there's no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration calling COVID the "Wuhan virus" or other things led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair, have raised, you know, threatening -- has elevated threats against Asian Americans. And we're seeing that around the country," Psaki said during a daily press briefing at The White House. (ANI)