“We represent diverse states and communities, and some of us have also been personally targeted by prejudice. All of us must stand today in solidarity with the Asian and AAPI communities and amplify the many statements of concern that AAPI leaders and community organizations have issued in recent weeks.”
WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) today were joined by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and 24 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in sounding the alarm about the increased harassment and violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to President Donald Trump, the Senators reiterated the responsibility that America’s leaders must embrace to avoid using rhetoric that fuels anti-Asian racism, and prevent confusion about COVID-19 from being exploited into any form of violence against communities of color.
“It is imperative that we make clear that the enemy in our midst is not the Asian or Asian-American community, but rather a virus that endangers us all,” wrote the Senators. “We must counter the mistaken belief that there is any link between the virus and a person’s ethnicity. Such misconceptions have contributed to a surge of hate crimes against AAPI communities, acting as a pretext for individuals who exploited this crisis as an opportunity to harm people whose racial and ethnic backgrounds differ from their own.”
The senators’ letter follows a similar call from a group of leading U.S. national security experts demanding heightened attention to the intensification of hate crimes targeting the Asian and Asia-American diasporas, particularly as communities of color in the United States are already being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
On March 20, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights expressed concern over the sharp rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans. The CDC, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have also warned against the social stigma that has targeted the Asian American community in the wake of COVID-19.
“History teaches us that injustice and divisions in the United States have been exploited domestically for political purposes and can be exploited by other governments for strategic purposes,” added the senators, “Racist rhetoric and hateful attacks against Asians and members of the AAPI community are unjust and utterly inconsistent with our core values. Such incidents also play into the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda and messaging in ways that undermine our unity, national interests, and global leadership.”
Joining Menendez, Schumer, Duckworth, and Hirono in signing the letter were Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.