The Biden Administration announced on Tuesday that the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders will be reinstated. The mandate will be expanded to include coordination with federal agencies across the country.
“Today’s announcements are additional steps in the Biden Administration’s work to advance equity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities through a whole-of-government approach to racial justice,” the White House said.
The new actions come after an increase in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Earlier this month, a gunman killed eight people, mostly Asian, in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Too often, we’ve turned against one another,” President Joe Biden said. “Vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated. At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, they’re on the frontlines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still, they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down the streets in America. It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said that former President Donald Trump’s language contributed to the rise in violence against AAPIs. President Trump referred to COVID-19 as ‘Kung Flu’ and the ‘Chinese virus.’
“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration, blaming — calling COVID, you know, the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things led to, you know, perceptions of the Asian-American community that are inaccurate, unfair, that have elevated threats against Asian Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country,” Psaki said.
Last week, Senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois pointed out the lack of AAPI representation in the Cabinet and also threatened not to vote for President Biden’s nominations if they were not diverse.
The White House agreed to add a senior-level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison to the administration.
“There is no doubt that our community is still at risk. I applaud President Biden for recognizing our community’s pain and taking concrete actions to protect AAPI individuals from violence and root out anti-Asian bias while also supporting the victims of hate crimes,” Senator Duckworth said.