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Duckworth on anti-Asian American rhetoric: ‘We can fight back against this rise in extremism’

Asian American Illinois Democrats - Sen. Duckworth, state Rep. Theresa Mah and Josina Morita, a Water Reclamation District commissioner, plus Sen. Dick Durbin spoke out in the wake of the Atlanta shootings.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., talks about violence against Asian-Americans on MSNBC
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WASHINGTON – The shootings in Atlanta that killed eight people – six were Asian women – is throwing a spotlight on violence against Asian Americans, “but frankly, it’s been ongoing for a long time now,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said on Friday.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Atlanta on Friday, refocused a trip planned before the Tuesday massacre, canceling a car rally, instead meeting with members of the Atlanta Asian American Pacific Islander communities.

And via Zoom, a group of Illinois Democrats discussed the growing number of racist attacks against Asian Americans. “We can fight back against this rise in extremism,” said Duckworth.

Duckworth, born in Thailand – her white father was from Virginia, and her mother was raised in Thailand, the daughter of Chinese immigrants – was joined at a press conference with two other Asian-American elected officials, state Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, and Josina Morita, a Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner, plus Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill.

“Everyone on this call who is of AAPI heritage will be able to say, they too, have been treated as an other,” Duckworth said.

The massacre weaves together at least two issues: the COVID-era increase in anti-Asian hateful rhetoric and the availability of guns. The suspect arrested in the rampage legally purchased his 9-millimeter firearm on the same day as the shootings, the Washington Post reported.

Harris, the daughter a mother from India and a Jamaican father who was Black, speaking after she and Biden met with the AAPI community in Atlanta, said, “Whatever the killer’s motive, these facts are clear: Six out of the eight people killed on Tuesday night were of Asian descent. Seven were women. The shootings took place in businesses owned by Asian Americans. The shootings took place as violent hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans has risen dramatically over the last year and more.”

Durbin, the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, noted his panel will hold a hearing on curbing gun violence next week. The witnesses will include Dr. Selwyn Rogers Jr., the founding director of the University of Chicago Medicine Trauma Center.

Mah, whose district includes Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, said in the wake of racism and hate crimes against Asian Americans, “We felt it was important to stand together and highlight the roles that we hold and to be visible because unfortunately Asian Americans remain invisible in our society.”

GOP REP. RODNEY DAVIS CRITICIZED BY DEMOCRATS

A tweet by a CNN reporter said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., told her “he believed the suggestion there is a relation between rhetoric and hate crimes against Asian Americans is “all political correctness.” Davis instead said phrases like “Kung flu” or “China virus” are no different than saying “UK variant.”

That unleashed a strong response from Illinois Democrats - Duckworth, Illinois Democratic Party chair Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Kristina Zahorik, the president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association - and pushback from Davis, who represents a downstate district.

In a tweet, Davis defended himself. “That’s a misinterpretation of what I said. Unlike CNN, I’ve never used phrases like “Wuhan virus” or “kung flu.” When we spoke, I also said there’s hate crimes against all different groups, but we’re seeing it all across the spectrum of humanity, and it’s got to change.”

Duckworth said, “I’m going to be calling Rodney Davis to talk to him about his claiming to say that, you know, calling COVID-19 the ‘China virus,’ the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Kung flu’ is not racist. It is racist.”

In statements, Zahorik said Davis’ rhetoric was “troubling,” while Kelly said “It is offensive” for Davis “to dismiss condemnation of hate speech as ‘political correctness.’”