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‘This day was coming:’ Lawmaker says year of anti-Asian rhetoric led to Georgia shootings

After this week's shootings in Atlanta, we explore the congressional response to rising violence against Asian Americans with Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California. Chu is the chair of the congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and testified on the “crisis point that cannot be ignored” at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We explore the response to the rising violence against Asian Americans with Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. She is the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. And, as we saw a moment ago in Lisa's report, she testified at today's hearing.

    Congresswoman Chu, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

    We still don't know the full motive or the information about what happened in this shooting, these shootings in the Atlanta area, but we do know that six of the victims were Asian American women. And The New York Times is reporting that the shooter had visited two of those spas previously.

    Is it — do you believe right now that it is right to call this an Asian American hate crime, even as we don't have the full picture yet?

  • Rep. Judy Chu:

    I do think this is an anti-AAPI crime.

    And the reason I say this is that this shooter started it at a business called the Young's Asian Massage. So, he clearly knew who he was targeting.

    And then he drove 27 miles to a mall to do even more shooting, but went to two Asian spas. Now, if this was an issue of his sexual addiction, he could have stopped anywhere in the Atlanta area anywhere else, but, no, he specifically chose three Asia spas where obviously he would do a majority of killing on Asian women.

    So, I think it was deliberate. And, also, remember that when people commit crimes, they may have multiple reasons for why they do it. And many times, they don't say that hate is a part of it. They don't think of themselves as haters.

    But, clearly, he had some issue with Asians and possibly women as well. So, I am just heartbroken over this. I am still in shock. And I cannot believe that this was the largest mass shooting since the pandemic began. But so it is.

    And yet this day was coming, because we have had a whole year's worth of hate crimes against AAPIs related to COVID-19, all starting with when Donald Trump started using the terms China virus, Wuhan virus and even kung-flu.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    How do you lay the blame at the feet of President Trump? There's no question that he did call it the China virus repeatedly.

    We also know that there's been an anti-Asian American thread running through much of American history, going back to the internment, the Japanese camps around World War II, and even earlier than that.

  • Judy Chu:

    Well, we do know that Asian Americans and Asian businesses were starting to experience dirty looks and ugly rumors around January, before Donald Trump accelerated his rhetoric.

    But it was in March, when he started calling it the China virus and Wuhan virus, even though the CDC and the World Health Organization warned not to use such terms because of the stigma that it would have to those from different geographical locations and those with specific ethnicities.

    So, they knew that it would cause harm. And, in fact, we, the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, did numerous things, press conferences, statements, letters to them, to have them cease using these terms because of the harm that it would cause Asian Americans.

    Instead, Donald Trump doubled down on the usage of it, using it even more and saying it at all his rallies and having all his Republican followers say it.

    As a result, we saw anti — hate slang and rhetoric increase by 900 percent on Twitter, and anti-Asian hate crimes increase by 150 percent in major Asian cities during this time period. So, I do lay this straight at the feet of Donald Trump

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congresswoman, have you yourself been on the receiving end of anti-Asian language?

  • Judy Chu:

    Of course.

    We have this kind of thing going on all around our neighborhoods. Actually, I feel so much for my constituents who tell me stories over and over again.

    And one constituent was sitting at a bus stop, when a man assaulted him with his own cane, causing him to lose part of his fingers. So, it just makes my blood curdle to think of what people are going through, how vulnerable they feel just walking out in the public, and not knowing if they're going to be attacked just for being who they are.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What do you think, finally, is the most important thing that the Congress can do, that the president can do to address the kind of discrimination and the kind of out-and-out hate that you say has become the problem that it is in this country?

  • Judy Chu:

    Well, the president took a great step forward — and I'm talking about President Biden — by issuing the executive order within the first week of his taking office condemning the anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents, but also saying that the Department of Justice should work with the AAPI community in developing programs that would combat anti-Asian hate.

    Now, this is extremely significant. We need to have grant programs that will allow local law enforcement agencies to develop their hate crime programs and have the training that is necessary to combat this.

    And we need to engage the AAPI community, have materials translated into these different resources, as well as bilingual hot lines, that make it he does for AAPI community members to call if they are having a hate crime issue or a hate crime incident that occurs to them.

    So, there are many steps that can be done. And, by the way, these are all encompassed also in these bills that we want passed, the NO HATE Act, as well as the COVID-19 Anti-Hate Act. Both these bills would provide a great source of resources that could indeed improve the way we deal with hate crimes in this country

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, thank you very much for talking with us.

  • Judy Chu:

    Thank you so much.

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