Vice President Kamala D. Harris blamed former President Trump on Friday for the rise in attacks against Asian Americans, as she and President Biden met with community leaders in Georgia in the wake of murders of six Asian women at massage parlors.
“For the past year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans,” the vice president said at Emory University in Atlanta.
While she didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name, Ms. Harris referred to “people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate.” The former president, who often refers to the COVID-19 pandemic as the “China virus” due to its origin there, has been blamed by others for a wave of violence against Asian Americans.
The president also indirectly blamed Mr. Trump’s rhetoric.
“Words have consequences. It’s the coronavirus — full stop,” Mr. Biden said.
Eight people were shot to death earlier this week at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, seven of them women. Police in Georgia have not determined a motive for the alleged gunman, Robert Aaron Long, 21, who is charged with eight counts of murder in the rampage. Officials said Mr. Long, who had visited the massage parlors previously, told them he has a sex addiction.
The vice president said whatever the motive in the shootings, hate crimes against Asian Americans soared in the past year. Ms. Harris portrayed it as a historical pattern of racism in the U.S.
“Racism is real in America, and it has always been,” the vice president said. “Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism, too.”
She cited violence against Chinese railroad workers in the 1800s, and the U.S. government’s internment of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.
Mr. Biden called on Congress to pass new hate-crimes legislation related to the pandemic. But he said regardless of new laws, “We have to change our hearts. Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It must stop.”
Their comments came after a private meeting with Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders, a discussion that the president called “heart-wrenching.”
“Too many Asian-Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying … They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed,” Mr. Biden said. “They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted. And killed.”
The president also pivoted to promoting the benefits of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote.
“Maybe Republicans in Washington didn’t vote for it, but the American Rescue Plan sure has brought the country together,” Mr. Biden said. “And for me, that measure of unity, that’s what matters.”