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Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of H.Res. 908, Condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19

Washington, September 17, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement, as prepared, on the House floor in support of H.Res. 908, Condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19:

"Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 908, a resolution condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment as related to COVID-19.

"Among other things, the resolution, introduced by my colleague from New York, Representative Grace Meng, calls upon all public officials to condemn and denounce anti-Asian sentiment, and it calls on Federal law enforcement officials to investigate and document all credible reports of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, to collect data on the rise of hate crimes incidents due to COVID-19, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing crisis for our country.  Over 6.6 million Americans have been infected, and almost 200,000 have died from COVID-19.  It has upended the lives of almost every American in some way and it will continue to do so for some time as we brace for a potential second wave of infections.

"On top of bearing the burdens that the pandemic has imposed on all Americans, Asian-Americans have been forced to carry the added anxiety of confronting racial prejudice, including racially-motivated harassment and violence, stemming from a stigma that has unfairly associated them with COVID-19 because of the virus’s origins in China, a stigma that has been reinforced by rhetoric suggesting such a link.

"According to the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, since March 19, there have been almost 2,600 cases of anti-Asian discrimination related to COVID-19.  According to the resolution, at the pandemic’s earliest stage in this country, between February 9 and March 7, there were over 400 such incidents. 

"These include the stabbings of an Asian-American father and his two young children, ages 2 and 6, in Texas.

"Public health entities including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recognized that labeling a virus by geographic or ethnic terms unfairly stigmatizes certain communities and ultimately harms public health.  For this reason, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar rightly condemned the use of the phrase 'Chinese virus' in testimony before the Ways and Means Committee, stating that 'ethnicity is not what causes the novel coronavirus.'

"It is incumbent on all public figures, including elected officials like us, to publicly condemn bigotry and the stigmatization of racial or ethnic groups unfairly targeted for blame.  We must speak out clearly against such attitudes and acts of hate whenever they occur, but particularly in the face of public panic or fear during a national emergency, when society can be especially vulnerable to racist appeals and prejudices.

"While many public figures have admirably sought to end COVID-19-related racial animosity, some, unfortunately, appear not to share the same sense of moral duty.  Rather than using their bully pulpits to confront prejudice and racial hatred, they have, instead, chosen repeatedly to use derogatory and prejudicial phrases and remarks reinforcing the exclusion and stigmatization of Asian-Americans in the face of a national crisis—a tactic that, sadly, has a long and ugly history in our country.  Left unchecked, this type of rhetoric has, in the past, led to grave injustices like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

"In the year 2020, condemning bigotry and racial scapegoating should not be hard for any Member of this House to do.  It is long past time to leave the days of 'yellow peril' hysteria and unjustified blame of the “other” behind.  The House can take an important step in that direction by passing H. Res. 908 unanimously.  I urge you strongly to support this resolution. 

"I reserve the balance of my time."
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