Congress members met Thursday for a hearing on anti-Asian violence and discrimination, the first meeting of its kind in more than 30 years. But while the intention was to address the country’s rise in anti-Asian hate and discrimination, some lawmakers used it as an opportunity to criticize China and make other offensive and xenophobic comments. Additionally, some Republicans argued that creating legislation addressing the rising number of attacks against Asian Americans would infringe and “police” the freedom of speech.
In response to these Republican lawmakers’ arguments, Rep. Grace Meng spoke through tears on the pain that has been inflicted on Asian Americans throughout the pandemic. She noted that the lawmakers could criticize other countries at any other time, but did not have to do so “putting a bulls-eye on the back of Asian Americans across the county, on our grandparents, on our kids.”
“This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community, to find solutions. And we will not let you take our voice from us,” said in her tearjerking response, which has since gone viral.
During the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rep. Chip Roy consistently questioned whether or not legislation to address hate crimes would impact freedom of speech and also whined about political correctness coming in the way of using racist language. He also diverted the conversation to “Communist China,” referred to the Chinese Communist Party as “Chi-Coms,” and spoke highly of his state’s history of “lynchings.” To make matters worse, while speaking of the “justice” he appreciates, Roy quoted a new song that glorified lynchings and attempted to claim it was an “old saying” from Texas. This all came after he claimed that the families in the recent Atlanta attack on Tuesday deserved justice.
“There’s an old saying in Texas about ‘find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree.’ You know, we take justice very seriously. And we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That’s what we believe.”
Many Democrats expressed concern at Roy’s xenophobic and ignorant comments. In response to Roy’s comments that the anti-discrimination hearing is about “policing” free speech, Rep. Steve Cohen said: “Being spat at, slapped in the face, lit on fire, slashed with a box cutter, and shoved violently to the ground … that’s not speech.”
Meng’s response came hours after she called out former President Donald Trump in an interview for his use of xenophobic language like “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” when referring to COVID-19. According to The Hill, she said such language contributed to a spike in anti-Asian attacks seen in the nation this past year.
“When you have a leader in this country who has a tremendous platform, use words and fuel false facts and misinformation about the virus and it’s perpetuated by the leaders, the top leaders of the Republican Party in the White House and in the Congress,” Meng said during the interview, “what happens is people, Asian Americans are getting shoved, assaulted, spat on.”
Multiple reports examining the link between political rhetoric and anti-Asian bias found that discrimination against the Asian American community increased after the use of such terms, Daily Kos reported. Others in Congress, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal, also commented on the use of such language by Republicans.
The House meeting took place less than two days after a racist attack on Asian Americans left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian women. The attacks have resulted in national outrage as police officials have claimed it is too early to determine whether the attacks were a hate crime. The incident is the latest attack on Asian Americans to garner national attention.
Almost 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian bias have occurred during the last year, Daily Kos reported. These acts of hate are not expressions of freedom of speech and cannot be framed as such—they are violent crimes committed in the name of racism. Hate crimes against AAPI people have increased by nearly 150% in 2020. America must do better and acknowledge the racism present in the country.
Watch Meng’s tearjerking response below.