Meanwhile, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the Democratic Caucus, highlighted the need to stand together in times of such crisis.
“It’s particularly important for leaders of every race, every religion, every background to raise your voices as we are doing today to make it clear we will not tolerate anti-Asian rhetoric or violence against the community,” Jeffries was quoted as saying.
Terms like “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” add fuel to the fire in the public’s perception of the crisis and put Asian Americans in harm’s way, especially when spoken by public figures, Chu explained. No less than President Donald Trump himself had used the term Chinese virus multiple times.
Chu pointed out that while Trump shifted his tone last week, it was “too little, too late.”
“He continues to double down on that term, and his followers continue to double down on that term. What he should do is send a strong message to his followers to not say that. He should start with his task force,” Chu was quoted as saying.
“Of course, there are the other people in his party that are in Congress that have continued to use that term, including our minority leader, Kevin McCarthy,” she said. “So he should send the message directly to them if he really means what he said when he said ‘Asian Americans should not be blamed for the coronavirus.'”
The caucus leaders also took the time to recognize a resolution introduced by Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., which would condemn all forms of racism and scapegoating and call on public officials to denounce anti-Asian sentiment. The bill drew support from over 120 co-sponsors.
“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,” said CAPAC vice chairwoman Meng. “The AAPI community has benefited so much from the struggles and the achievements of the black, Latino and Native American communities.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, recalled a history of discrimination by the U.S. government toward Asian Americans. He noted the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which placed a 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. This was later extended with the Geary Act by California Representative Thomas J. Geary, which was passed by Congress on May 5, 1892.
Meanwhile, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., highlighted that the attacks have been happening even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“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,” Bass said. “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.”
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