New York Attorney General Letitia James is taking steps to combat hate crimes and xenophobic rhetoric amid the COVID-19 crisis, however, her efforts have drawn criticism from some in the Black community.
On Monday, James’ office announced the launch of a new hotline for New Yorkers to report hate crimes and other biased-based incidents related to the current virus outbreak. The move follows a surge in reported assaults and racist rhetoric aimed at Asian-Americans amid the growing pandemic.
“As we face an unprecedented and uncertain time for New York, the United States, and the world, we must reiterate the fact that this pandemic does not give anyone an excuse to be racist, xenophobic, or biased,” James said in a statement. “No one should live in fear for their life because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.”
She added: “I encourage all victims of discriminatory actions stemming from this pandemic to contact my office.”
The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, late last year, has infected over 100,000 people across the U.S., and hundreds of thousands more globally. In recent weeks, New York City has seen rising reports of Asian-Americans being harassed or physically harmed in response to the outbreak. A straphanger was filmed earlier this month spraying an Asian man with Febreze in a bizarre confrontation on a subway train.
Anti-Asian rhetoric from top officials like President Donald Trump, who’s repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” despite objections, has also resulted in a stigma around Asian communities, officials said.
In a statement, James said her office will continue working with law enforcement officials to fight hate “in all its insidious forms.”
The hotline, which will continue indefinitely, was welcomed by many like Rep. Grace Meng, who is Chinese-American, and State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou. Still, the effort left a few Blacks wondering where was such a resource all the years people of African descent experienced racism and discrimination in America.
“When’s the black one getting set up?” asked radio personality and reality star, Claudia Jordan under an Instagram post.
“The things this country does for every other race other than Blacks, I’m just sayin’,” said another in response to the news.
A fellow user agreed, writing: “BUT WHERE TF IS OUR HOTLINE. WE HAVE ONLY BEEN GETTING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST FOR 400 YEARS.”
“It’s sad that the same energy isn’t being applied to African American communities,” another wrote.