A US congressman has come under fire for invoking what he referred to as "an old Texas saying" appearing to nostalgically endorse lynching during a hearing on racial violence.
The controversial comments from Texas representative Chip Roy came on Thursday (local time) during a House committee examining violence aimed at Asian Americans, and comes in the wake of an Atlanta shooting in which six of the eight people killed were of Asian heritage.
The shootings occurred at three massage parlours, prompting concern in a community that’s increasingly been targeted during the coronavirus pandemic.
On the eve of the hearing, the shooting thrust the issue back into the headlines.
"The victims of race based violence and their families deserve justice... in the tragedy we just saw in Atlanta, Georgia," Roy said in his opening remarks.
But his subsequent comments drew swift backlash as he appeared to proudly invoke a history of lynching in the state he represents.
"We believe in justice," he said.
"There's an old saying in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that. ‘Round up the bad guys'."
The congressman sought to stand up for free speech during the hearing while subsequently taking aim at the Chinese Communist Party.
His choice of words were quickly condemned with the Texas Democratic Party calling for him to step down.
"Chip Roy glorified lynching at a hearing on violence against Asians. The largest mass lynching in US history was against Chinese immigrants," Democrat congressman Ted Lieu, seemingly referring to the Chinese massacre of 1871, said.
"This language is unacceptable, and Chip Roy is an ignorant inciter," Asian American actor George Takei tweeted.
CNN anchor Don Lemon blasted the comments in a broadcast following the hearing.
"You really only need to hear congressman Chip Roy to understand how big the problem of race is in this country," he said.
"Right smack in the middle of a hearing on discrimination and hate crimes ... he equates justice with lynching."
Roy later sought to clarify his remarks, telling a local NBC affiliate he was not endorsing lynching.
"What that is, is a metaphor for going back to the point of Texas history about what you did when you'd say, 'all right, let's go have justice'. You know, you want due process and all of that. We had a public hanging back in the day. And that's how we executed justice," he explained.
Hundreds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders turned to social media to air their anger, sadness, fear and hopelessness this week. The hashtag #StopAsianHate was a top trending topic in the US on Twitter hours after the massage parlour murders.
The anger was exacerbated when police declined to charge the shooter with a hate crime, with a leading police spokesperson saying the shooter "had a bad day". That same officer was found to have previously promoted racist T-shirts on Facebook which blamed Chinese people for Covid-19.
with Associated Press
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