Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during a Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing on “Discrimination and Violence Against Asian Americans”:
“Mr. Chairman, we are here today to address the horrific rise in violence, harassment, and discrimination against Asian Americans that is surging across the country.
“As we convene this hearing, our thoughts are with the victims, but especially the Asian American victims, in Georgia who were brutally murdered on Tuesday night. Although the motive is still to be investigated, the effect on the Asian American community has been profound and it is certainly appropriate for us to address the fear gripping the Asian American community. So, I want to thank the Chairman for convening this hearing.
“Hate crimes and hate incidents against Asian Americans have been on the rise since 2017. Last year alone, nearly three thousand eight hundred incidents were reported, with about sixty eight percent of Asian Americans reporting that they have experienced racial slurs or verbal harassment since the pandemic began.
“Distressingly, one of the largest increases in the country of hatred and violence against Asian Americans has occurred in my own Congressional district in New York City.
“This short clip shows just some of the verbal and physical abuse many Asian Americans have faced in recent years.
- Last February, a woman was hit in the face on the subway and called “diseased”.
- Last March, a Chinese American dad from Queens and his 10-year-old son were harassed and attacked by an assailant who was screaming at him for appearing to be Chinese.
- Last April, an Asian American woman in Brooklyn suffered significant burns after a chemical attack.
- Last July, an 89-year-old grandmother in Bensonhurst was attacked and set on fire by two men.
- Just last month, a New Yorker was slashed across the face with a box cutter. He needed more than 100 stitches.
- Also last month, in separate incidents on the same day, two elderly women were punched in the face on the subway.
- A few weeks ago, a man was stabbed outside of the federal courthouse.
- And just this Tuesday, a woman in Midtown had an unknown liquid poured on her neck as she was picking up packages.
“The common denominator? All of the victims were Asian American or of Asian descent.
“These are our neighbors, friends, family members, constituents, and fellow Americans.
“And it is not only severe violence that Asian Americans in New York have had to fear. There has also been a barrage of verbal attacks and discrimination against the community. New Yorkers have had racially derogatory remarks written onto the outside of their restaurants and had flyers posted around New York City neighborhoods blaming Asian Americans for the virus. Many of these attacks go unreported and official statistics represent only a fraction of hate crimes or hate incidents.
“These examples are certainly not exhaustive, and the harassment, abuse, and violence extend to communities across the country. We have witnessed Asian Americans bloodied and beaten in stores; learned that Asian American parents fear sending their children back to schools because of racial violence; and observed harrowing videos of verbal attacks aimed at Asian Americans in our public spaces.
“And perhaps even more heartbreaking, we have seen our Asian American frontline workers battle not only the pandemic but also racism and disproportionately high death rates.
“It is important to recognize that this surge did not spontaneously arise only out of fears regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. Some of this blame lies squarely on political leaders who have demonized China—both because of the virus and ongoing geopolitical tensions—and in turn Asian Americans have fallen in harm’s way.
“Words have power. What we say matters. How we treat each other matters.
“The expectations and standards we set in how we address this pandemic matter.
“The conversation we are having today is long overdue, and it is vital that Congress shine a light on this issue. The last Congressional hearing held on violence against Asian Americans was in 1987, in this subcommittee.
“34 years is too long for Congress to leave this issue untouched. Our government must thoroughly investigate and swiftly address growing tensions and violence against the Asian American community, especially in light of the pandemic, because lives and livelihoods are truly at stake.
“Last week, we reached the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in this country—a solemn and difficult moment for our nation as we reflected on all we have suffered and lost. But such hardship cannot be used as an excuse for dismissing the pain of our fellow Americans, enabling discrimination against them, or devaluing their sense of belonging and citizenship.
“Today, we are privileged to have our fellow Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, testifying about their personal experiences. In addition, we have an expert panel that will walk us through the rise in discrimination and violence and its impact on the community, as well as historical perspectives and challenges to inform our legislative efforts moving forward. I look forward to hearing how we can better ensure protection, justice, and healing for our Asian American neighbors, in this time of crisis and moving forward.
“Thank you, and I yield back.”
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