By Erin Jones

(CBSDFW.COM) – On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which expands the federal government’s efforts to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans, directing the Justice Department to speed up the review of incidents and provide more guidance to state and local entities.

The legislation also expands public education campaigns to boost awareness and outreach to hate-crime victims.

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“It was very, very early that I remembered being taunted for being Asian,” Amy Tran-Calhoun said.

She was singled out for the first time at just 5 years old — in her kindergarten class.

“There were a group of, just for context, blonde girls that were running around in circles just taunting me – slanting their eyes – yelling things that would be perceived as Asian language,” she said. “As a kid, I remember a girl spit in my face when I was in 4th grade.”

They’re incidents, as a child, she never spoke about publicly.

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“I was embarrassed actually that it happened to me,” she said. “I felt like I wasn’t seen and like my language, my culture and my values were not respected.”

She said over the years, her friends and family have shared similar stories and explains many Asian Americans feel the pandemic has escalated hateful behavior.

Some shared their experiences today during a “Racism in America” – Voices of Asian Americans virtual town hall – hosted by the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.

“We’re seeing just this rise in people feeling comfortable being outwardly racist towards Asian Americans,” Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Spokesperson Stephanie Drenka said. “I agree that hate has no place here, but I think we have to be very explicit it is systemic racism and white supremacy that does not have a place here.”

Tran-Calhoun stresses the importance of expanding anti-racism training for children and adults in schools and workplaces.

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“To have the conversations, to do the education and to think about what are the steps we can take and the ownership we can take to make changes for ourselves and our communities,” she said.

Erin Jones