Members of New York's Asian American community attend a self-defense class organized by the Public Safety Patrol, a civil patrol team started in response to the spike in attacks against Asian Americans since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, at the Glow community center in Flushing, in the New York borough of Queens on April 18, 2021. Photo: AFP / Ed Jones

President Joe Biden signed a hate crimes law Thursday aimed at protecting Asian Americans, who have suffered a surge in attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Racism, Biden told Asian American politicians and senior members of Congress in a packed room at the White House, is “an ugly poison that has long plagued our nation.”

Reeling off a list of violent incidents that took place against a backdrop of anti-Chinese sentiment linked to the pandemic, Biden said the Asian American community had been made a “scapegoat.”

“Too many Asian Americans have been waking up this past year genuinely fearing for their safety, just opening their door and walking down the street,” he said.

Stop AAPI Hate, an activist group, says there were 6,603 hate incidents – mostly verbal insults – reported in the year from March 2020, but many more were likely not reported to police.

Going unmentioned by Biden was that his predecessor Donald Trump would frequently refer to the coronavirus as “the China virus” and “kung flu” – racist-tinged phrases that quickly became part of the right-wing lexicon.

The bill, signed by Biden after rare, overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, improves access for reporting such crimes and seeks to smooth procedures for the authorities to respond.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart: Hate can be given no safe harbor in America,” Biden said. “Silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit.”