By Allison Li
On May 20th, President Biden signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. The act was passed through the Senate and Congress with a near-unanimous vote, a rare instance of cooperation between the two parties.
The organization Stop AAPI Hate documented approximately 6603 hate incidents from March 2020 to 2021. This spike in Anti-Asian sentiment was linked to the virus’s spread.
The bill aims to work against hate crimes by expediting the Department of Justice’s review of hate crimes related to COVID. It also aims to increase funding and make hate crime reporting more accessible. In addition, state and local law enforcement will establish online, multi-lingual reporting of hate crimes and expand public education campaigns to prevent racist, discriminatory language regarding COVID.
In light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new regulations regarding vaccinated individuals, the signing ceremony was the largest event held at the White House since the Biden administration began.
Kamala Harris, the first woman of color to hold the office of Vice President, opened the ceremony by thanking the lawmakers responsible for the passage of the bill, “Because of you, history will remember this day and this moment when our nation took action to combat hate.”
Biden stated his hopes that the signing ceremony “marked the first significant break” in a hyper-partisan era. He expressed, “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, diverse and vibrant communities have helped build this nation only to be often stepped over, forgotten, or ignored…we see you”.
Some advocates believe that the bill is only taking moderate steps towards helping communities deal with violent attacks against Asians, while House Democrats argue that it will prevent attacks by ensuring a more efficient reporting system. Regardless, the act is an essential first step towards acknowledging and undoing the systemic racism in our country and gaining visibility for minorities, including AAPI.