HONOLULU(KHON2) — President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law on Thursday, May 20.
The legislation was introduced by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and New York Rep. Grace Meng.
It was penned after the alarming uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes across the U.S. during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a step in the right direction, but Sen. Mazie Hirono (D) admitted that changing the hearts and minds of people will take much more than a piece of legislation.
“This horrific rise in hate crimes is a matter of national concern,” Sen. Hirono said.
A study from Cal State University San Bernardino shows they are up 164% since May 2020.
The racist acts were the catalyst for the COVID-19 Hate Crime Act.
“One of the biggest impacts will be that we’ll be able to collect data on the incidents of hate crimes,” Hirono said.
The bill creates a new position at the Justice Department to expedite the review of hate crimes at the federal, state and local levels. It also provides money for education about racism.
“It was really an opportunity for the Senate to stand up. And then the House to stand with the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community and loudly condemn these kinds of attacks,” Hirono explained.
But she admitted the bill can not stop attacks from happening.
“Because we passed this legislation, and it’s now law, does not change the hearts and minds of people who would bear animus for AAPI’s, and who think of us as the other and the perpetual foreigners, that they can attack us,” Sen. Hirono said.
Kay Gibu lives in Hawaii and is Japanese-American. She says she feels like the country has gone backward.
“I just felt like people were starting to understand each other’s cultures. I don’t know what happened. It’s pretty sad,” Gibu said. “It makes it hesitant for me to travel, but we can’t just totally not travel. We love to travel so much.”
It has been decades since she feared being the target of a racially fueled attack.
“We’ve gone East Coast, and I mean, No, never — I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Gibu explained. “I think the the time that I probably experienced that was 30 years ago in in Savannah, Georgia.”