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Congress holds first hearing on Asian American violence in decades amid ‘crisis point’

Fear and fallout from this week's deadly shootings in Atlanta have echoed across the country. While investigators have not confirmed a motive in the attack that killed eight, including six Asian women, many across the country have deemed it a hate crime. Lawmakers held a hearing on the issue of hate crimes against Asians in Washington today. Lisa Desjardins has the story.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fear and fallout from the deadly shootings in Atlanta are still echoing tonight. Investigators have not identified a motive, but the issue of hate crimes against Asians headlined a hearing in Washington today.

    Lisa Desjardins reports.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    For the first time in more than 30 years, a congressional hearing on discrimination against Asians, an issue both public and personal for Asian American lawmakers in both parties.

  • Rep. Judy Chu:

    The Asian American community has reached a crisis point that cannot be ignored. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans have been terrified by the alarming surge in anti-Asian bigotry and violence we have witnessed across our nation.

  • Rep. Michelle Steel:

    Sixty-eight percent of these incidents and crimes were targeted towards Asian American women. This has to stop.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The topic is especially poignant in the wake of deadly shootings at spas in the Atlanta area this week. Eight people were killed. Six were women of Asian descent.

    The full motive of the accused gunman, 21-year-old Robert Aaron long, is still being investigated, but its effects are reverberating nationwide. Numerous cities held vigils last night, moments of grief…

  • Woman:

    I am so tired.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    … and frustration.

  • Ahyoung Kim:

    It's heartbreaking to notice and realize that, time after time, similar issues happen. And it's as if we're never heard. It's as if the government doesn't care.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Back at today's hearing, witnesses pointed to a long history of bigotry and abuse, from the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 19th century, to Japanese internment in World War II, to recent vicious acts of violence, including this assault on a 91-year-old man in Oakland's Chinatown, and, just yesterday, an elderly woman in San Francisco.

    This, witnesses argued, undergirds less visible, but also powerful issues.

    Actor and advocate Daniel Dae Kim:

  • Daniel Dae Kim:

    I was speaking to a pollster during the recent elections. And I asked him why, when I see polling results broken down by race, do I so rarely see Asian Americans as a separate category.

    He heard my question. He looked me dead in the eye, and he said, "Because Asian Americans are considered statistically insignificant."

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It was a complex and at times tense hearing, as some Democrats raised racial slurs used against Asians, including during the pandemic.

  • Rep. Ted Lieu:

    Stop using racist terms like kung-flu, or Wuhan virus, or other ethnic identifiers in describing this virus. I am not a virus.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans, like Chip Roy of Texas, pushed back, arguing that too much is being made of race as a motive and America as racist, and it is chilling free speech.

  • Rep. Chip Roy:

    It seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society. We shouldn't be worried about having a committee of members of Congress policing our rhetoric because some evildoers go engage in some evil activity, as occurred in Atlanta, Georgia.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    To that, Congresswoman Grace Meng reacted strongly.

  • Rep. Grace Meng:

    Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don't have to do it by putting a bullseye on the backs of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids.

    This hearing was to address the hurt and pain in our community and to find solutions, and we will not let you take our voice away from us.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    At the White House, President Biden ordered flags on federal property to fly at half-staff for four days to honor the shooting victims in Atlanta. He and Vice President Kamala Harris travel there tomorrow to meet with Asian American leaders.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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