US politicians, academics and actor Daniel Dae Kim, in a congressional hearing held days after the killing of six Asian women in Georgia, said the Asian-American community was reeling from a year of increased anti-Asian attacks.
Thursday's hearing, which was scheduled before the latest attack, was to examine a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans, which rose by 149 per cent in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
"Our community is bleeding, we are in pain and for the last year we've been screaming out for help," Grace Meng, a Democratic representative, told the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Experts linked the surge to the Covid-19 pandemic, which originated in China, after some Americans, including former president Donald Trump, started calling the coronavirus the "China virus", the "China plague" and even the "kung flu".
A 21-year-old white man is charged with killing eight people, six of them Asian women, at three spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday. Police are investigating motives and have not ruled out the possibility that the attacks were provoked, at least in part, by anti-immigrant or anti-Asian sentiments.
The surge in anti-Asian American incidents in the past year included people being slashed with a box cutter, being set on fire and suffering verbal harassment, said Steve Cohen, the subcommittee's Democratic chairman.
"All the pandemic did was exacerbate latent anti-Asian prejudices that have a long, long and ugly history in America," Mr Cohen said.
Kim, best known for starring in the television series Lost and Hawaii Five-0, called on politicians to pass legislation to fund groups that provide counselling to victims of hate crimes and improve data collection for hate crime reporting.
"What happens right now and over the course of the coming months will send a message for generations to come as to whether we matter, as to whether the country we call home chooses to erase us or include us," Kim said.
In the closely divided House, the hearing quickly lapsed into partisan politics.
In a sprawling opening speech, Chip Roy, a Republican representative from Texas, said the subject matter was important, but then moved on to attacking China's treatment of its Uighur community and handling of the coronavirus.
He said he hoped the hearing would address how affirmative-action policies by US universities hurt Asian Americans.
Repeatedly, Democratic legislators referred to Mr Roy's comments in their own statements.
"Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want, but you don't have to do it by putting a bullseye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids," Ms Meng said.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US President Joe Biden, who will be meeting Asian-American leaders on Friday in Atlanta, was determined to be "part of the solution, not part of the problem".