CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES ON CORONAVIRUS-RELATED ATTACKS ON ASIAN AMERICANS: “WE WILL NOT STAND FOR RACISM. WE WILL NOT STAND FOR HATRED. WE WILL NOT STAND FOR XENOPHOBIA.”
NEW YORK – This week, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Vice Katherine Chair Clark (D-MA) led a video press conference with Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Judy Chu (D-CA), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and CAPAC First Vice Chair Grace Meng (NY-08) to address recent violence and xenophobia targeted at the Asian American community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Thank you for joining us today as we all continue to navigate our way through the COVID-19 challenge and pandemic that has afflicted America and the world. We are here today to speak in one clear and unequivocal voice as it relates to the hateful rhetoric and acts that have been directed against our Asian-American brothers and sisters. Our message is clear to anyone who is purveying such xenophobia or purveying such hateful rhetoric and inspiring the targeting of Asian Americans throughout the land. Cut. It. Out.
The COVID-19 pandemic knows no boundaries. It afflicts everyone regardless of race, regardless of region and regardless of religion. The only way for us to defeat this pandemic is to do it together. The House Democratic Caucus stands with our Asian-American brothers and sisters in this fight, many of whom have been on the front lines as doctors, nurses, health care professionals, supermarket workers and grocery store clerks, first responders, transportation workers and others who are bravely engaged in the fight to defeat the coronavirus. We will not stand for racism. We will not stand for hatred. We will not stand for xenophobia. We will not stand for bigotry of any kind whatsoever. This is America. Our diversity is a strength. It is not a weakness. We are a nation of immigrants, some voluntary, others involuntary. But as Dr. King once observed, we may have come over on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now. We are Black. We are White. We are Latino. We are Asian. We are Native American. Out of many, we are one. That is what makes America a great country. And together is the only way that we will defeat the COVID-19 virus.
With that, we've been joined by some tremendous leaders from within the House Democratic Caucus, including the entire leadership of the Tri-Caucus. And let me begin by yielding first to someone who has been on the front line of so many fights for social, racial and justice equality for every single American. The Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the distinguished gentlelady from the great state of California, Judy Chu.
CAPAC CHAIR CHU: Thank you so much, Chairman Jeffries, for your strong words and for hosting today's press call. And I want to thank also my colleagues in the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucus for standing with our Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, or what we call CAPAC, and the broader AAPI community to denounce the alarming rise of anti-Asian xenophobia and violence that we've seen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when many Americans are fearful and worried about their health and safety, it's more important now than ever that we come together as a nation to get through these challenging times.
The rise of anti-Asian coronavirus xenophobia and discrimination has been alarming and overwhelming. It started in January with dirty looks, insults and misinformation targeted against Asian-owned businesses. But in the last month, it's escalated to spitting, yelling and physical attacks against Asian Americans. And this is happening all around the country. In New York, a man assaulted a woman on a subway for wearing a face mask. And in another incident, an Asian-American student was simply standing on the sidewalk when a woman punched her while yelling coronavirus insults, possibly causing a dislocated jaw. In Texas, a man stabbed three Asian Americans, including two young children, at a Sam's Club, saying that he wanted to kill Asian Americans. In San Francisco, an elderly Asian man was simply collecting cans on the street when he was taunted and attacked by those saying that they hated Asians. And in Los Angeles, a 16-year old boy was sent to the hospital after being attacked by bullies who accused him of having coronavirus. In fact, there have been over 1,000 anti-Asian hate incidents reported in the last five weeks alone across 31 states. The hate incidents are now being reported on our reporting sites at about one hundred per day. And this is even, and most likely, an undercount. At this point, every AAPI knows somebody or have themselves been subject to this xenophobia.
And it's been made worse by Donald Trump, who's fanned the flames of xenophobia by insisting on calling it the “Chinese virus.” Despite the fact that all responsible health leaders have warned against that term because of the terrible stigma it causes, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. CAPAC has called out President Trump and his followers every time they've used the term "Chinese virus." And we're so grateful to the leaders of the Black, Hispanic and Native American caucuses for issuing a joint statement with us two weeks ago to likewise denounce anti-Asian bigotry.
As a result of our collective efforts, just last week, the president finally acknowledged how harmful his words can be and said that Asian Americans should not be blamed for the coronavirus. But his words, wouldn't have been necessary if he had refrained from stoking xenophobia in the first place. That's why we have to push back against this xenophobia every time it rears its ugly head. And that's why I am so grateful to see the Democratic Caucus so unified and the overwhelming support we've seen for Congressmember Grace Meng's resolution to condemn anti-Asian discrimination related to COVID-19. These are difficult times but let us remember that our unity is our strength. We can and must stand united in denouncing xenophobia and ensuring that we keep all Americans healthy and safe.
CBC CHAIR BASS: […] I think the fact that we have the leadership of our Democratic Caucus who convened us today demonstrates the unity of our Caucus. I'm saddened that I can't say the same for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. And in fact, they seem to be determined to racialize the pandemic by constantly and deliberately referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus.” I've even heard this constant reference describing the virus this way on Trump's TV network. It should be no surprise that when racial or religious fears are constantly stoked, that violence will follow. For the last three and a half years of this administration, from the time he rode down the escalator and attacked Mexicans, he has attacked or negatively referenced people of color consistently and regularly. So, there should be no surprise that during the last three and a half years, we have seen a dramatic increase in attacks against people of color. But I'm proud to say that our three Caucuses have stood in strong solidarity with each other every step of the way. I especially commend the Chairwoman again for her leadership of CAPAC and for always making sure that we are aware of the impact this administration has had on the AAPI community. And Chairman Castro, for his leadership of the Hispanic Caucus and guiding our Democratic Caucus on issues related to the administration's attacks against immigrants at the border. I will say that as we stand in solidarity with each other, our three Caucuses and the Democratic Caucus, that historically we have stood in unity.
These attacks are nothing new, unfortunately, in the history of our country at different points in time. White supremacy rears its head and there have been attacks on one of our communities. And so, us standing in solidarity today, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, and CAPAC, that amounts to us continuing a historical tradition. I hope that we don't have to have this historical tradition forever. But right now, we're going to do everything we can to fight this pandemic, to keep our communities safe and where violence rears its head to denounce it and speak out against it. And I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of Representative Meng's legislation. Let me now yield the floor to the Chair of the Hispanic Caucus Joaquin Castro.
CHC CHAIR CASTRO: […] The Hispanic Caucus stands in solidarity with the Asian-American community and the Pacific Islander community in the United States. We have witnessed the president's rhetoric not only fan the flames of racism in the country, but also lead other politicians to use the term "Chinese virus" in a pejorative way. And we've also witnessed the cost of that. The fact that people are having slurs used against them on the street, people have been physically attacked. The Hispanic Caucus has been very familiar with this over the last few years as Hispanic immigrants and others in the community have paid the price for the president's rhetoric. So we're here today, most of all to demand that the president stop using that language, that other elected officials act responsibly and stop fanning the flames of racism.
We're also asking our fellow Americans to recognize the fact that Asian Americans, like all of us, make significant contributions to this country, are just like everyone else and should not be targeted just because of their ethnicity, or the way they look or some perceived pejorative term that the president has used. And we have to be weary of these things because there is a history of anti-Asian American violence and prejudice in this country. The Chinese were excluded from United States for decades, for example. So, we have to make sure that we don't enter another dark period in American history. And most of all, the president has to lead by not using that distorted language and that prejudiced language.
REP. MENG: […] As was mentioned already, I too am just really outraged and disgusted by a lot of the attacks and the rhetoric against the Asian-American community. And it's really important, and I'm so thankful for the fact that it's not only Asian-American leaders that are condemning these attacks, but leaders from all around the country, from different backgrounds. The AAPI community has benefited so much from the struggles and the achievements of the Black, Latino and Native American communities. And I'm honored to be with all of you once again, even though we're talking about this topic, which we have seen, as Chairwoman Chu mentioned, in numbers and in reporting, and those are just the cases that have been reported, this huge wave of discrimination, which is largely fueled by some of our nation's top leaders from President Trump to our minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, to various colleagues. This rhetoric is unacceptable. It is, at best, reckless and irresponsible. And we've heard of attacks that range from verbal attacks, whispering attacks to downright physical and blatant attacks. And as horrified as I am by physical attacks, in most cases, those wounds will heal. But it's the emotional attacks and the verbal attacks and the stigma that so many are going through, especially our newer Americans and our young people and our senior citizens. Those wounds will not heal in most instances.
And so, I implore people from all backgrounds to condemn any discriminatory rhetoric and acts. And I'm thankful to be with all of you on this call as we continue to stand together against this type of rhetoric. I did introduce the resolution last week with Chairwoman Chu. And within a few hours, we had over 130 cosponsors sign on to this House Resolution that condemns anti-Asian American sentiment. And I just think it's really important that we as the legislative body, the United States Congress, is able to stand strong, stand together and publicly condemn discriminatory rhetoric.
As Chairman Castro has mentioned the AAPI community has always, and as someone that is a daughter of immigrants and grew up in the United States, I've often thought of discriminatory actions and rhetoric as sort of part of our American history, something that was in the past and not something that affected us today, whether we're talking about Japanese internment camps or the Chinese Exclusion Act. We just thought it wasn't something that was as relevant today. But as we've seen today, as what people are saying and doing against fellow Americans, there is a lot of fear in our communities. I just heard a story about someone's mother, elderly mother, who is terrified to even go grocery shopping because she doesn't want to yet again be the victim of someone whispering or saying something to her. And she's literally scared to go buy groceries. And so, again, I just wanted to thank you all for being here.
VICE CHAIR CLARK: Our Asian American and Pacific Islander community is facing threats and violence because of ignorant and hateful comments that are coming from the very top of our government. The American people are looking for leadership, honest information, and compassion. We will be able to combat this virus if we let facts guide our response and if we work together as a country and a community. Division will only hold us back.
Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.
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