RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia officials are letting their voices be heard in condemnation of the recent spike in violence toward Asian Americans across the country.
The latest comes after a Georgia man is accused of killing eight people at massage parlors in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian and seven were women.
“This is the latest in a series of heinous attacks against Asian Americans across this nation, but sadly these are not isolated events,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in a release Wednesday morning.
“Hate and bigotry have no place in our Commonwealth or country. We all have a responsibility to condemn these racist acts and make clear that this is not who we are as Virginians, or as Americans.”
Congressman Bobby Scott echoed the sentiment stating that while the Atlanta shooting was “a shocking act of gun violence,” Scott said it was also an act of hate.
“It’s tragic to see how the violence against Asian-Americans has been normalized. This hate has no place in our country. #StopAsianHate.”
Discrimination toward Asian Americans has been boiling for the past year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. From virus-related discrimination, minor aggressions, to blatant attacks, Asian Americans have been the common recipient of the blame for the coronavirus.
Since March, one organization collected almost 3,000 reports of anti-Asian hate throughout the country.
Back in May of last year, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner joined more than a dozen of his Senate colleagues in a letter urging the U.S. Department of Justice to address a rise in discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The senators wrote a letter to Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband asking the Civil Rights Division of the department to take “concrete” steps to quash hate crimes — as it has in the past — in particular communities.
In the letter, senators said Asian American organizations have received nearly 1,500 incident reports of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination.
The senators also said they were disappointed in the Department of Justice’s response — of lack thereof — to the rise in hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The letter is available here.
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of the Virginia General Assembly on Friday also released a statement urging Virginians to condemn the violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
Those legislators include:
- Senator Ghazala Hashmi (District 10, Chesterfield)
- Delegate Mark L. Keam (District 35, Fairfax)
- Delegate Kathy KL Tran (District 42, Fairfax)
- Delegate Kelly K. Convirs-Fowler (District 21, Virginia Beach)
- Delegate Suhas Subramanyam (District 87, Loudoun)
The news release can be read below in full:
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) members of the Virginia General Assembly urge our colleagues and every Virginian to join us in condemning the violence against the AAPI communities across the country.
We mourn for the victims of the mass shooting in Georgia but note that it is not a coincidence that all three of the businesses targeted were owned by Asian Americans and that six of the victims are Asian American women.
Law enforcement authorities must investigate these tragic crimes to the fullest and not allow the perpetrator to frame the murders in his favor. Furthermore, media reports about this brutal mass murder must provide an honest and clear assessment of the killer’s racially biased actions.
“This is racism and hate targeted at one of our most vulnerable communities,” said Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler. “And the empathy exhibited for the murderer is problematic and contributes to the same hateful rhetoric as crowds chanting ‘kung flu!’”
The increasing violence towards our AAPI communities is overwhelming. Stop AAPI Hate reports 3,795 hate incidents targeting AAPIs in all 50 states and Washington DC between March 2020 and February 2021.
These incidents are no doubt the consequence of the harmful rhetoric that blames AAPIs for COVID-19. Continued use of terms like “Kung flu” or “China virus” has led to AAPIs being stigmatized, assaulted, and killed and to AAPI businesses being vandalized.
“The rise in hate incidents against AAPIs is a direct result of Trump and his cronies insinuating that the AAPI community is responsible for this public health crisis. But the othering and scapegoating of AAPIs is not new. AAPIs have faced racism throughout our history, and this must stop,” said Del. Kathy KL Tran. “We honor the victims of the Georgia massacre and everyone who has experienced hate by speaking out against racism, bigotry, and violence and by working together to advance a more just and equitable future.”
Sen. Ghazala Hashmi points to the long history of scapegoating members of AAPI communities: “Prejudicial rhetoric has often translated into policy that targets this community and serves to disenfranchise the AAPI. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese internment camps to contemporary false equations of Asian Americans with the pandemic, we have seen a continuous attempt to dehumanize and alienate Americans of Asian descent. We have to join our collective voices in condemning these hate crimes and hate speech.”
“As I see photos of these women, hear their names, and read about their journeys that brought them to America, I can’t help but identify with their stories,” said Del. Mark Keam who was born in Korea and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. “These six, along with nearly 4,000 other Americans whose ancestry trace to Asia and Pacific Islands have suffered from bigoted prejudice that treat us as foreigners in our own country. It is time to Stop Hate Against AAPIs.”
Del. Suhas Subramanyam added, “I have been grieving the lives lost in the Georgia attacks, alongside my AAPI community members. Unfortunately, this is one of many episodes of unprecedented violence, discrimination, and animosity toward AAPIs, especially since the start of this pandemic. We must come together to put an end to this hate.”