Actor Daniel Dae Kim is urging Congress to pass legislation protecting Asian Americans after several women of Asian descent were killed this week in shootings at Atlanta-area spas.
The “Raya and the Last Dragon” star, who has been outspoken in recent months about the rise in violence toward Asian Americans, testified before lawmakers Thursday morning at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on anti-Asian hate incidents in the United States.
Kim implored Congress to vote in favor of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the No Hate Act, which would provide “counseling for those convicted of hate crimes and improved data collection for hate crime reporting, among other important services.”
“It’s crucial that we have reliable reporting for these hate crimes and an infrastructure that makes it easy for people for whom English is not their primary language,” Kim said.
“I respectfully urge you not to let these bills languish in committee, but see them through so that they can be passed by the full house and then on to the Senate. Now, I’m not naive enough to think that I’m going to convince all of you to stand up for us — trust me, I’ve seen your voting records — but I am speaking to those to whom humanity still matters.”
In addition to the Atlanta shootings — which left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent — Kim called attention to other recent attacks targeting elderly people of Asian descent, some of whom died from their injuries.
“There are several moments in a country’s history that chart its course indelibly for the future,” the “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0″ actor said. “For Asian Americans, that moment is now.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — which former President Trump and others repeatedly referred to with racist terms — 3,795 racially motivated attacks have been committed against Asian Americans, according to a study conducted by Stop AAPI Hate.
The report also concluded that the total was likely a fraction of the attacks that had occurred, because many were not reported to the group. Among the victims of this week’s killings in Georgia were Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth, Ga.; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Yan, 49, of Kennesaw, Ga.; and Daoyou Feng, 44, whose address was not known.
“What happens right now … will send a message for generations to come as to whether we matter — whether the country we call home chooses to erase us or include us, dismiss us or respect us, invisiblize us or see us,” Kim said in his testimony.
“Because you may consider us statistically insignificant now, but one more fact that has no alternative is that we are the fastest-growing racial demographic in the country. We are 23-million strong. We are united. And we are waking up.”
Prior to his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Kim and broadcast journalist Chris Cuomo discussed the Atlanta killings on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.” According to authorities, Robert Aaron Long was arrested Tuesday night and has admitted to shooting the victims.
The 21-year-old from Woodstock, Ga. has blamed his actions on a “sexual addiction,” but Kim cautioned against taking “this man at his word for what his motives are” and criticized Atlanta police for “downplaying” the violence by saying that Long had “a really bad day.”
“Even if he says explicitly that it was not racially based, all you have to do is peel away a layer to ask the question, ‘Why is temptation in the form of an Asian woman?’ Why then, would you go to an Asian [spa] — three of them — to target them?’” Kim told Cuomo.
“This sits at the intersection of a lot of different issues about how we feel about Asian Americans, how we feel about Asian American women — the exoticization and the fetishization that we’ve seen portrayed in the media for so long, so that they are now to the point where they can be disposable. And … we’re making someone who committed these murders already a victim by saying he’s having a bad day.”
Kim also told Cuomo about a 2015 incident in which his sister was allegedly targeted by a man who hit her with his car while she was out on a run. Despite the man’s “history of violence against Asian women,” Kim said, the attack was not recognized as a hate crime, and the attacker was convicted of reckless driving.
“The judge in the case with my sister said, ‘I can understand why this guy was frustrated. I get frustrated too,’” Kim said.
“This is a part of our history, Chris,” he added. “So I’m a bit skeptical when I hear that there’s absolutely no connection between race and these murders.”
Times staff writer Anh Do contributed to this report.