Senate Democrats call on Trump to work with them to combat anti-Asian bigotry

AP_20072608559332 AP_20072608559332
Jessica Wong, of Fall River, Mass., front left, Jenny Chiang, of Medford, Mass., center, and Sheila Vo, of Boston, from the state's Asian American Commission, stand together during a protest, Thursday, March 12, 2020, on the steps of the Statehouse in Boston.
AP Photo/Steven Senne
  • A majority of the Senate Democratic coalition, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, signed on to a letter pledging to work with President Donald Trump to combat the rise in anti-Asian bias.
  • Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, said that a reporting center established by her organization has received word of close to 1,500 incidents of anti-Asian bias over the last month.
  • The senators' letter argues that the president's use of the term "Wuhan virus" contributes to the stigma against people of Asian descent, but the senators nonetheless express a willingness to jointly "confront the racism that so many encounter in their daily lives."
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Over two dozen Senate Democrats have signed a letter to US President Donald Trump concerning the rise in harassment and hate crimes against people of Asian descent amid the COVID-19 pandemic, pledging to work with him "to confront the racism that so many encounter in their daily lives."

In the April 21 letter, the senators — from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to independent Senator Bernie Sanders, with 29 in all — say they "are alarmed by the severity and increasing frequency of hate crimes and race-based harassment against Asians and members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community."

Over the past month alone, the group Stop AAPI Hate has received close to 1,500 reports of anti-Asian incidents, ranging from verbal harassment to physical assault, according to Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and one of the group's founding members. That, despite much of the country sheltering in place.

Kulkarni told Business Insider she appreciates the senators' effort to "sound the alarm," and is hopeful Trump might take them up on their offer.

"We appreciate their efforts to call this out," she said. "And certainly, one never knows what is going to appeal to President Trump," who has himself has been accused of using xenophobic rhetoric that has been linked to a rise in hate.

The letter touches on that, diplomatically, stressing the need for public officials to "counter the mistaken belief that there is any link between the virus and a person's ethnicity."

The use of the terms "Chinese virus" and "Wuhan virus," deployed in conservative media and by the president himself, in particular, they argue, may contribute to the stigma against Asians and members of the AAIP community. (Trump, for his part, has argued that the terms are "not racist at all.")

And while stressing the need for international cooperation during the crisis, the senators further assert that the rise in anti-Asian bias in the US is a potential national security issue, playing into "the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda and messaging in ways that undermine our unity, national interests, and global leadership."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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