The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, September 17, passed a resolution to denounce anti-Asian rhetoric and discrimination fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the measure calls on all public officials to condemn all forms of anti-Asian sentiment and “all manifestations of expression of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Asian sentiment, scapegoating, and ethnic or religious intolerance.”
It also asks federal law enforcement officials to work with state and local officials in investigating and documenting credible reports of hate crimes and incidents against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, and in holding perpetrators accountable.
The votes were 243 to 163, with the majority “yes” votes coming from 229 Democratic lawmakers and 14 Republican lawmakers.
Meng said the resulting votes showed that “the House said, ‘Enough.’”
“For months, Asian Americans in my home state of New York and in communities throughout the nation have been verbally and physically attacked, spat on and shunned,” said Meng, who is also the first vice-chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC).
The resolution was introduced by Meng in March in response to the increase of reported hate crimes targeting AAPIs since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition aimed at addressing anti-AAPI discrimination amid the pandemic, said in its latest August report that it received a total of 2,583 incidents of discrimination against AAPIs from 47 states in the past five months.
Critics have said that President Donald Trump’s insistent use of the phrase “China virus” in describing COVID-19 has enabled the rise of anti-AAPI discrimination and hate crimes.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on scientists, leaders, and media to avoid using names of people, places, and animals when naming diseases to avoid stigmatizing nations, economies, and people.
“Enough of the demeaning usages of ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus’ and ‘Kung-flu’, especially from our nation’s leaders, such as President Trump,” said Meng. “Enough of the scapegoating.”
All votes against the measure were by Republican lawmakers, with Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California calling the resolution “ridiculous” and a “waste of time.”
McCarthy suggested that the House focus instead on a coronavirus stimulus plan.
“At the heart of this resolution is the absurd notion that referring to the virus as a Wuhan virus or the China virus is the same as contributing to violence against Asian Americans, which I will tell you no one of this side of the aisle supports,” said McCarthy.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio accused supporters of the resolution of being a part of “the mob of cancel culture” and pointed out that the media and some Democrats used terms condemned in the resolution early on in the pandemic.
“That’s how the mob operates today,” said Jordan. “They’ll attack you if you don’t say it the way they want you to say it and this is dangerous. You can’t say China virus today. Tomorrow who knows what it will be?”
In a statement following the resolution’s passing, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who also serves as CAPAC chair, doubled down on the reports of AAPI hate crimes connected to the coronavirus.
“An 89-year-old woman in New York was slapped and set on fire. A 16-year old boy in Los Angeles was beaten so badly he had to be hospitalized. And in Texas, a gunman shot a family at a Sam’s Club saying he wanted to exterminate Asians,” said Chu.
“Each of these attackers, and thousands of others like them, have been inspired by the false perception that Asians are responsible for the virus – a perception that has been advanced by Donald Trump and Republicans who have insisted on using slurs like ‘Wuhan virus,’ ‘China plague,’ and ‘Kung flu’ even though they know they are dangerous,” added Chu.
AAPI community applauds resolution
Following the resolution’s passing, AAPI groups were quick to voice their support.
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) acknowledged that there would still be those who wouldn’t see the racism behind blaming China for the coronavirus, but said there would be a “time and place to hold all world leaders accountable for their responses to the pandemic.”
“However, so long as elected officials insist on racializing the virus to deflect blame or dodge accountability, we’ll be here to remind them that Asian Americans will not be collateral or scapegoats for their failed leadership,” NCAPA wrote in a statement.
Fil-Am Katrina Dizon Mariategue, acting executive director at Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) said Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” has “opened the door to xenophobic and racist harassment of the Asian American and Southeast Asian American communities.”
“While we grapple with lockdowns in our communities, lack of clear information and leadership, and language barriers to accessing necessary healthcare and culturally competent mental health support, we have also been put at undue risk of physical and mental abuse because of this hateful framing of COVID-19,” added Mariategue.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC commended Meng and CAPAC for “doing their part to reduce the discrimination and aggression” AAPI communities have been experiencing on top of the global pandemic.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of the group, said the recorded increase in hate crimes towards AAPI was telling of a “dangerous path where this behavior is becoming normalized.”
“Bigotry and hate cannot continue,” said Yang. “Overcoming this global pandemic is challenging enough without the constant threat of unprovoked attacks on our community. We must all work together through this public health crisis and support the Asian American and other hard-hit communities by the Coronavirus.”