U.S. Senate Passes Anti-Asian Hate Crime Bill

In  what is, so far, a rare instance of  meaningful co-operation between Democrats and Republicans during President Biden’s administration, the U. S. Senate has passed Anti-Asian hate crime legislation that will require the Justice Department to sharpen its monitoring of COVID-related hate crimes and better provide targeted guidance to state and local law enforcement efforts in combating a scourge of violent attacks that have victimized people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent at increasingly alarming rates, since it became clear that the Coronavirus pandemic would have a devastating impact on the health, economic and social well-being of communities around the world.

The bill passed the Senate recently by  a vote of 94-1, and will be taken up in the House, where passage seems certain. The lone “no” vote in the upper chamber was cast by Missouri GOP Senator Josh Hawley, who criticized the law as being “too broad.”

The Kansas City Star, a respected  and influential newspaper in his home state, characterized the senator’s response this way: “Sen. Josh Hawley, last seen encouraging a riot at the U.S. Capitol, now thinks America is too tough on hate crimes.”

In contrast to Hawley, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, characterized the legislation this way: “By passing this bill,” he said, “we tell our law enforcement agencies to prioritize bigoted violence, and wield the sword of the law to detect, deter, and prosecute hate crimes of all variety.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, who said discrimination against Asian Americans is “a real problem,” was an early supporter and helped gain passage of the measure.

One has to wonder why a problem that is clearly deserving of major attention and swift action to deter scurrilous, violent — and sometimes deadly — attacks against targeted communities of people, simply because they are — or appear to be — of Asian descent, didn’t pass muster with Sen. Hawley. Especially since a key responsibility of serving in government in this country is to do everything you can to promote the safety and well-being of the people you are supposed to serve.

According to the non-profit organization, Stop AAPI Hate, there were 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents between March of 2020 and February, 2021.  That is almost certainly an under count of the actual  incidents, since it is widely acknowledged that many attacks go unreported, because many of those who suffer them fear even more trouble for themselves and family members, if they come forward.

That is one of the problems the Senate’s bill seeks to remedy. A provision of the legislation tasks the Justice Department with expanding cultural and linguistic education campaigns to, hopefully, make it easier to fight discrimination, and encourage more victims and witnesses to speak up. The legislation also requires local law enforcement agencies to set up online reporting of  incidents in multiple languages, which should make it easier for victims and witnesses to report problems. Those working on this effort in the agency are being asked to provide clear guidance and good practices to make it easier for local law enforcement agencies to comply. 

These measures are good steps. Truth is, no law-abiding residents, simply trying to go about their daily routines — and are not harming anyone  else — should be subjected to vicious attacks, simply because of their ethnic background and/or appearance. In the democratic nation, in which we so often declare we live, such attacks are Un-American and certainly ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

There is still the matter of communicating clearly to politicians, thought leaders and others who are considered ” social leaders” in this society — in the strongest possible terms — that it is not OK to continue to fall in line with those who seek to divide our people with ill-advised COVID-19 dog whistles that refer to the Coronavirus as “The China Virus,” or “The Kung Flu.”

Many, who follow those political and/or social media “influencers,” see themselves as righteous foot soldiers, fighting the good fight against “dangerous foreigners out to destroy their way of life.” So many of the victims are American citizens, too. Others are legal residents, who are contributing to their communities and just trying to get along.

Is is clear at this point that the problem is not going to go away on its own. That’s why the Senate’s action is important, and why the House should move quickly in putting its support behind it, hopefully, with a strong bi-partisan showing.

This is not an Asian-American problem. This is an AMERICAN problem. Every U.S. citizen and legal resident ought to be solidly behind all reasonable efforts to eradicate this dangerous and hateful malady.

It is in the best interest of All of Us — even those among us who are seeking to gain a political edge by dividing our people, pitting one group against another in the hope of garnering more political power, and raking in campaign cash for themselves and/or their favorite politicians. Yes, even those people. They know who they are.

The damage done to the soul and beating heart of this nation; to its image abroad and its ability to live up to the noteworthy claims it brags about, is enormous, and grows more alarming by the day. 

What kind of nation will we be, if we don’t act?

A second- or third-rate one at best. And who among us would really want to live in a nation that has fallen so low, and proven to be a country with  a  boastful mouth, but empty heart?