SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The U.S. Senate will soon debate a bill confronting hate crimes against the Asian and Asian-American community.
It is in response to a rise in nationwide attacks against Asian-Americans, fueled in part by derogatory language about the COVID-19′s origins in China.
Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are co-sponsors of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. On Wednesday, senators voted 92-6 to proceed to consider passing the bill.
Sens. Ossoff and Warnock, as well as South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, were four of the 92 U.S. senators who voted to move forward with the bill. Those in Savannah’s Asian and Asian-American community say it is refreshing to see bipartisan support.
“I was gratified to hear the Republican leader yesterday say that the Senate Republican conference wanted to move forward on the bill,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Following an increase in attacks against AAPI’s, or Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, local community members say the democratic-sponsored COVID-19 Hate Crimes Bill is an opportunity for lawmakers to stand in solidarity with Asian and Asian Americans.
“It’s time for all the politicians or elected officials to show their courage,” said Weihua Zhang, with the Chinese Heritage Society.
The legislation would assign a point person within the Department of Justice to expedite the review of COVID-19-related hate crimes. In the bill, COVID-19 hate crimes would include attacks on people based on the perception that one of their characteristics - race, gender, sexuality, among others - links them to the spread of the virus.
Qiwei Sun says the bill is a win-win for everyone in the country, not just the AAPI community.
“Hate crimes, apparently is aimed at Asian Americans, in the end, the whole society is the victim,” Sun said.
FBI data shows that hate crimes reported in Georgia increased from 2018 to 2019, with 102 hate crimes reported.
Meanwhile, they decreased in South Carolina from 111 to 68.
Sun says racism is the real virus in the United States, and discrimination and hate crimes will continue to spread unless something is done at the federal level.
“If they don’t support this bill passed, they are the virus,” Sun said.
A final senate vote on the legislation is expected soon. I reached out to Georgia and South Carolina Representatives Buddy Carter and Nancy Mace about how they plan to vote if the bill heads to the House, both say they are still reviewing the bill.