President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called for the U.S. to unite against hate and speak out against violence targeting Asian Americans in an address in Atlanta on Friday.
“A harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us,” said Harris, the country’s first Asian American vice president.
The public remarks came after the president and vice president met with Georgia Asian American leaders in the wake of the shooting rampage in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six Asian women.
While law enforcement is still investigating the suspect’s motive, both Biden and Harris were clear: The shootings come amid a rise in discrimination and violence toward Asians and Asian Americans, and the country must work together to address it.
“Hate and violence often hide in plain sight. It’s often met with silence,” Biden said. “Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.”
“It’s on all of us, all of us together to make it stop,” the president said, emphasizing that “words have consequences.”
“I believe with every fiber in my being there are simply some core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans and one of them is standing together against hate, against racism — the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation,” Biden said.
President Joe Biden speaks after meeting with leaders from Georgia’s Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, Friday, March 19, 2021, at Emory University in Atlanta, as Vice President Kamala Harris listens.
Patrick Semansky | AP
The president, who himself has grieved the loss of family members, also offered words of comfort to the loved ones of those who lost their lives in the shooting.
“I assure you, the one you lost will always be with you,” Biden said. “The day will come when their memory brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye, as unbelievable as that is now. It will take a while. And I promise you it will come. When it does, that’s the day you know you’re going to make it.”
The meeting with Asian American state legislators and community advocates took place at Emory University, where Biden and Harris later delivered their remarks.
The Atlanta visit, Biden and Harris’ first joint trip since taking office, was originally part of a national tour touting the passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. The White House announced Thursday it would postpone the scheduled political event in the wake of the deadly shootings and shift focus to rising discrimination and violence against Asian Americans.
The president and vice president are also met with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an update on the Covid pandemic.
Biden and Harris also planned to meet with voting rights advocate and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams during their Atlanta visit, a White House official told NBC News.
The official said Abrams has “played a leading role in voting access and voter protection, and she will be an important partner in taking action on this important issue moving forward.”
Abrams is widely credited for her years-long voter mobilization efforts that fueled Democratic wins in Georgia during the November presidential and January Senate runoff elections.
The president and vice president’s meeting with Abrams comes as civil rights activists in Georgia push back on voting restrictions proposed by Republican state legislators. The activists are urging Biden and Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation, like the “For the People Act” introduced in the Senate on Wednesday.