WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday announced a multi-agency strategy to combat hatred against Asian American Americans, increase access to languages and improve government data collection for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities .
“This unprecedented plan builds on the administration’s broader justice agenda,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday’s news briefing.
The Pew Research Center found that a third of Asian Americans have changed their daily routes out of fear of violence. Recently, an 18-year-old Indiana University student was repeatedly stabbed in the head by a 56-year-old white woman on a bus, and the school says it was because the student is Asian.
The Indiana chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum issued a statement following the attack saying “is not an isolated case.”
“This chilling confrontation is the continuation of a deepening national crisis: anti-Asian racism, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions,” the statement said. “AAPIs across the country have found themselves in the crosshairs of racial harassment, discrimination, vandalism and violence.”
Following an executive order signed by President Biden in 2021 establishing the White House Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders Initiative, the initiative released a report detailing strategies for 32 federal agencies “to promote equity, justice, and opportunity for… Asians to encourage American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.”
The advisory group held a webinar Tuesday outlining its seven priorities: combating hate and discrimination against Asians, dissecting data, accessing languages, equitable inclusion in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, building capacity such as access on grants and federal contracts, increasing the diversity of the federal workforce, and reaching out and engaging with AAPI communities.
U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Julie Su said during the webinar that taking steps to desegregate data is important because the current process hides the diversity of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander people.
She added that by de-segregating data, issues such as unequal pay and health inequalities would become more visible. Su said the Bureau of Labor Statistics is releasing monthly labor force estimates for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities for the first time.
She said once that process began, they could see that the unemployment rate for native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 14.6% as of November 2020.
“And that was double the rate for the general population,” Su said. “So again, understanding what’s happening in specific communities is so crucial to addressing the needs of the community.”
A “historic engagement”
One of the advisory committee members, Daniel Dae Kim, an award-winning American actor known for his role on the television show Hawaii Five-O and blockbuster films like the Divergent series, has spoken out openly about anti-Asian American hatred. He said during the webinar that the report marks a “historic commitment across government to promoting equity, equity and opportunity for our communities.”
“I personally know the important role that the federal government plays in our daily lives in promoting equity, justice and opportunity for our diverse communities,” said Dae Kim. “And we hope that all of this government (approaches) will provide our community with access to resources, programs, funding and much-needed support as our nation continues to recover from the health and economic impact of the pandemic.”
He said the report is open to public comment and hopes people will take the time to provide their feedback, emphasizing the committee’s important work as violence against the AAPI community continues to mount.
Hatred of anti-Asian Americans has increased since the coronavirus pandemic began, as the virus originated in China, Asian and Pacific Islander people have been the targets of racial harassment and violent attacks.
Former President Donald Trump frequently blamed China for the virus and gave the coronavirus a racist nickname that associated it with the AAPI community.
In 2021, six women of Asian descent were murdered in Atlanta when a white man targeted Asian-owned spas. Two months later, Biden would sign an executive order establishing the advisory body.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution shortly after the mass shootings in Atlanta condemning the violence against the AAPI community and reaffirming Congress’ determination to crack down on anti-Asian hatred.
The resolution made no mention of the mass shooting or the former president’s rhetoric, but noted that “the use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID-19, such as the ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus,’ and ‘kung flu.’ perpetuate the anti-Asian stigma that has led to Asian Americans being harassed, attacked and scapegoated for the COVID-19 pandemic.”
After the mass shootings in Georgia, Congress would pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would create an expedited review process for the Justice Department to investigate hate crimes and reports of hate crimes.
STOP AAPI Hate, a national coalition that has collected data on racist attacks on Asians related to the pandemic, released a report in December that recorded nearly 11,500 hate incidents between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2022.