White House Acts to Quell AAPI Criticism

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, March 18, 2021, in Washington.“In the coming weeks, the administration will meet with AAPI leaders to hear their input in how we can play the most constructive role possible in the community,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday. “And the president raised — because he felt it was imperative to elevate — the continuing threats, the hate speech, and the violence against the Asian American community in his speech he gave during a primetime address a week ago.”The White House was surprised recently to find itself facing criticism from prominent Asian American lawmakers in the president’s own party for a lack of representation. The comments followed a pair of shootings by the same gunman in Atlanta, Georgia, in which six Asian American women were among those killed. The attacks on three day spas prompted community protests there and in other U.S. cities.The administration thought it had secured credibility among Asian Americans with Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris, whose mother emigrated from India, as his running mate and now vice president.“The folks in the administration actually brought up her name and said, ‘Well, you have Kamala, you don’t need really any other Asians in the cabinet,’” Senator Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., asks a question on Capitol Hill, Oct. 29, 2019, during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing.Duckworth, of Illinois, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — both Democrats — have been the most vocal members of Congress expressing concern about the lack ethnic Asian representation in the Biden administration at a time of a rising number of attacks reported on members of the AAPI community.The two senators had vowed to oppose further Biden nominees until a significant plan was unveiled to address Asian American issues.The threat was dropped after Duckworth said the White House last week made a commitment to appoint a senior White House official focused on Asian American issues.The community will be closely watching to see if the person appointed by Biden has the clout and experience — and is given resources — to adequately address its concerns, Le, of the Truman National Security Project, told VOA on Tuesday.“I would say there’s sort of a palpable fear in the air and this is reaching an existential crisis for many communities across the country,” said Le, who was a deputy cabinet secretary to former California Governor Jerry Brown.The crime wave against Asian Americans is continuing with two brutal new assaults in New York City, which were recorded on video. Police say they are investigating the attacks as hate crimes.In one of the attacks, in which a lone assailant kicked in the stomach a 65-year-old Asian woman, bystanders failed to intervene.FILE – Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, holds a press conference in New York, Feb. 26, 2020.The video revealed an act that was “absolutely disgusting and outrageous,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who called it “absolutely unacceptable” that witnesses did not try to help the woman. “If you see someone being attacked, do whatever you can.”A nonprofit organization connecting Asian Americans to digital organizing, 18 Million Rising, said while it is “glad to see the Biden administration acknowledge and condemn the rise in anti-Asian violence” it disagrees “with some of the proposed responses shared in today’s statement” by the White House.The group, in a statement to VOA, expressed concern that “anti-Asian violence and xenophobia are being met with increased funding for law enforcement by the Biden administration,” pointing out that numerous progressive Asian American organizations are “demanding community-centered solutions instead of increased funding and training for the FBI and other law enforcement.”One in four Asian Americans has experienced a hate incident, while more than two-thirds have been asked “where they’re really from,” according to a poll from Survey Monkey and AAPI Data published Tuesday.“I don’t think people are going to just take it anymore,” said Le. “You’re seeing that sort of awakening, partly from the recent election cycles, but also an acknowledgement it’s no longer okay to just to be happy with what you’re offered, it’s that you really have to fight to be at the table and that goes not just politically but also just in your day-to-day living.”There are about 20 million Asian Americans in the United States — nearly 6% of the total population.One encouraging sign for the AAPI community is the inclusion of several Asian Americans among federal judicial nominees announced Tuesday by the White House.“Two were previously nominated in the Obama administration, and we believe that they would contribute immediately to the federal bench,” John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said in statement to VOA.“At the same time, we continue to press the Biden administration to ensure that Asian Americans are represented in the senior-most levels of the federal government.”

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