Biden and Harris met with leaders of the Asian American community in Georgia on Friday and denounced the Atlanta-area shootings that claimed the lives of eight individuals, including six Asian women.
After meeting with officials, Biden stated in a televised address that the American public needs to speak out against hate and violence, especially as the US has documented a surge in hate crimes against the Asian American community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hate and violence often hide in plain sight and are so often met with silence. That’s been true throughout history,” Biden told viewers. “But that has to change because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.”
Biden referred to the deadly shooting spree as being part of a "skyrocketing spike" in attacks against Asian Americans, stating that "they've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed."
"It's been a year of living in fear for their lives," he stressed.
In fact, newly released data from nonprofit organization Stop AAPI Hate revealed earlier this week that some 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents were reported amid the pandemic. The report found that some 68% of the documented attacks were against Asian women.
Although initial reports from law enforcement officials state that the Atlanta killings were driven by the shooter's alleged sexual addictions, it is largely believed that the attacks were influenced more by anti-Asian sentiments. Investigators are still assessing whether the shootings were racially motivated.
"Whatever the motivation, we know this: Too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake," Biden underscored.
"Hate can have no safe harbor in America. It must stop. It's on all of us together to make it stop."
Speaking ahead of Biden, Harris stated in brief remarks that xenophobia, sexism and "racism [are] real in America and it always has been."
Without outright naming former US President Donald Trump, who repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus," Harris noted that "for the last year we've had people in positions of incredible power, scapegoating Asian Americans; people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate."
A Wednesday-published study by a group of researchers with the University of California, San Francisco, revealed that Trump's repeated use of the "Chinese virus" term prompted a sharp rise in anti-Asian hashtags being used on social media. Official found that netizens who used similar rhetoric were more than likely to use tags that were overtly racist.
At the time, Trump rejected any assertion that his decision to refer to the deadly virus as the "Chinese virus" or the "Wuhan virus" could prompt a dangerous sentiment toward the Asian American community.
Biden indicated during the address that he and Harris are both being "regularly updated" on the ongoing investigation.
In total, the Tuesday shooting claimed the lives of eight people. The suspected shooter, identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, remains in police custody and has been charged with eight counts of murder.