US President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a memorandum condemning the surge of anti-Asian racism in the country during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, while directing the Department of Justice to make more concerted efforts to address hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“During the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons, families, communities, and businesses at risk,” the memorandum said.
The memorandum is part of a series of executive orders regarding racial equity and civil rights signed by Biden.
“The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the Covid-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin,” it said, “Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons.”
According to the document, the pandemic response from federal health authorities should demonstrate “cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs.”
In addition, the memorandum orders federal agencies to look into whether discriminatory rhetoric like “China Virus” is referred to in any existing policies or federal websites published by the previous administration.
It also issued guidance for the Department of Justice on how to further prevent hate crimes and harassment against these racial groups, including better data collection of anti-Asian hate incidents with the assistance of AAPI communities.
“It’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it,” Biden said at a signing ceremony at the White House.
Biden also signed executive orders directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address racially discriminatory federal housing policies and the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons.
“I think these are very promising… And I think it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done,” Manju Kulkarni, the executive director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), said of the memorandum.
Throughout last year, then US President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” despite guidance from public health officials to avoid attaching locations or ethnicity to a disease. SOVEREIGNPH