May 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Hirono: Passing anti-Asian hate crimes bill doesn't mean "hearts and minds will follow"

Screenshot of Mazie Hirono speaking to the camera

The recent passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was historic, but it "does not mean that hearts and minds will follow," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said at a virtual Axios event on Friday.

Why it matters: Anti-Asian hate has surged in the past year, jumping 164% in some of America's largest cities. Hirono introduced the bill in the Senate, which will improve hate crime tracking and train law enforcement to better identify anti-Asian hate.

  • President Biden signed the bill into law on May 20.

What she's saying: "There are people in our country who bear an animus toward the AAPI community, often regarding us as the Other and the perpetual foreigners," she said.

  • "There are historical antecedents to the discrimination against Asians in our country," she said, citing the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese American internment and Trump's Muslim ban.
  • "This kind of discrimination and racism is never far below the surface in our country," she noted. "So, yes, education, prevention ... are all very important aspects of what we need to do. We're not going to solve this situation overnight."

The big picture: The bill drew rare, overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate. Only Sen. Josh Hawley (R- Mo.) voted against the legislation.

Worth noting: Over 75 Asian and LGBTQ groups have criticized the bill, arguing that it only reinforces policing of vulnerable communities.

Watch the full event here.

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