Activists gathered in Atlanta March 16, 2022 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings and rally for justice for Asian women. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder.
WASHINGTON— The White House on Tuesday announced a multi-agency strategy to help combat anti-Asian American hate, promote language access and improve governmental data collection for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community.
“This unprecedented plan builds on the administration’s broader equity agenda,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Tuesday’s press briefing.
Pew Research Center has found that a third of Asian Americans have changed their daily routes due to fear of violence. Most recently, an 18-year-old Indiana University student was repeatedly stabbed in the head by a 56-year-old white woman while 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 this “is not an isolated event.”
“This terrifying confrontation is a continuation of a soaring national crisis: anti-Asian racism, intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions,” according to the statement. “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 to establish the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, the initiative released a report that details strategies for 32 federal agencies “to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.”
The advisory group held a Tuesday webinar where it detailed its seven priorities: combating anti-Asian hate and discrimination, data disaggregation, language access, equitable inclusion in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, capacity building such as access to grants and federal contracts, increasing federal workforce diversity and outreach and engagement with AAPI communities.
U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Julie Su said during the webinar that it was important to take steps toward data desegregation, because the current process hides the diversity of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community.
She added that by desegregating data, issues such as unequal pay and heath disparities become more visible. Su said for the first time the Bureau of Labor Statistics is publishing monthly labor force estimates for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.
She said once that process was started, they could see that the jobless rate for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders was 14.6% in November 2020.
“And that was double the rate for the total population,” Su said. “So again, understanding what’s happening in specific communities is so critical to addressing community needs.”
An ‘historic commitment’
One of the advisory committee members, Daniel Dae Kim, an award-winning American actor known for his role in the television show “Hawaii Five-O” and blockbuster films such as the Divergent series, has been outspoken about anti-Asian American hate. He said during the webinar that the report signifies a “historic commitment across the government to advancing equity, justice and opportunity for our communities.”
“I personally know the important role the federal government plays in our everyday lives in advancing equity, justice and opportunity for our diverse communities,” Dae Kim said. “And we hope these whole government (approaches) gives our community access to resources, programs, funding and much needed support as our nation continues to recover from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.”
He said the report is open for public comment, and he said he hopes people will take the time to provide their feedback, stressing the important work of the committee as violence against the AAPI community continues to increase.
Anti-Asian American hate has increased since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic because the origin of the virus was in China, people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have been the targets of harassment and violent attacks based on their race.
The former president, Donald Trump, frequently blamed China for the virus and gave the coronavirus a racist nickname, linking it to 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 creating the advisory panel.
The House passed a resolution shortly after the mass shootings in Atlanta, condemning violence against the AAPI community and reaffirming Congress’ commitment to pushing back against anti-Asian hate.
The resolution did not mention the mass shooting or the rhetoric of the former president, 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’ has perpetuated anti-Asian stigma that has resulted in Asian Americans being harassed, assaulted, and scapegoated for the COVID–19 pandemic.”
Following the mass shootings in Georgia, Congress would pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would create an expedited review process for the Department of Justice to investigate hate crimes and reports of hate crimes.
STOP AAPI Hate, a national coalition that has gathered data on racist attacks toward 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.
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