While President Biden's first prime-time address was largely optimistic regarding the country's plan for tackling , Mr. Biden also used his time at the podium to condemn the surge in violence that Asian Americans have experienced over the past year.
"Too often, we've turned against one another," the president said. "Vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated."
While hate crimes fell overall by 7% in 2020, a new report published this week found that Asian Americans experienced a. In July 2020, there were more than 2,100 anti-Asian American hate incidents that were directly related to the pandemic.
Mr. Biden noted that the attacks are happening despite the fact that "so many of them, our fellow Americans," are health care workers working on the front lines of the pandemic.
"And still, still, they are forced to live in fear for their lives, just walking down streets in America," the president said. "It's wrong, it's un-American, and it must stop."
A White House official had confirmed to CBS News' Weijia Jiang ahead of the speech that the president would address these attacks, saying his decision to do so was deliberate and that his message would be "very forceful."
Yunhan Zhang, the owner of a tea shop in Washington, D.C., said he was attacked in November when he was pepper sprayed by a man shouting slurs. Zhang said he hopes Mr. Biden's message will prevent others from getting hurt.
"At least now we have our first step. Then, with more efforts we can maybe make a real difference," Zhang said.
Many on social media were quick to thank Mr. Biden for addressing the issue, saying that "words matter," and comparing Mr. Biden's rhetoric to that of former President Trump, who referred to COVID-19 as "China virus," among other derogatory terms.
Maryland's Republican Governor Larry Hogan tweeted a photo of his family saying the hate Asian Americans are experiencing "truly is 'un-American.'"
During his first week in office, President Biden issued a memo condemning racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The memo said that "advancing inclusion and belonging" is essential to making sure people in the U.S. are safe, and that the government must recognize it has played inn "furthering these xenophobic sentiments."
"Despite these increasing acts of intolerance, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made our Nation more secure during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout our history," the memo says. "An estimated 2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have served on the front lines of this crisis as healthcare providers, as first responders, and in other essential roles."
The memo directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a set of best practices for combatting racism and intolerance and directed the attorney general to explore how the federal government can better support Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and organizations.
Weijia Jiang contributed to this report.
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