FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26, 2021
Washington, DC—The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) issued the following statement regarding the Biden Administration’s Presidential Memorandum addressing anti-Asian discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The Memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services to consider issuing guidance for best practices to “advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity” towards the AAPI community in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It also directs the Department of Justice to “partner with AAPI communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.”
NCAPA applauds President Biden’s memorandum the anti-Asian discrimination that increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, Asian Americans have been blamed and scapegoated for the cause of the pandemic and have since experienced a rise of xenophobic harassment and violence. The usage of Asian Americans in photos for COVID-19 news articles and the popularization of racist terms, such as “Chinese virus” or “kung flu” by the previous administration to deflect blame have only served to exacerbate attacks on Asian American communities.
Especially after the active demonization of our communities by a consistently racist and xenophobic administration, we welcome new leadership in the White House that seeks to address the issues impacting our community and recognizes federal responsibility to prevent racism, xenophobia, and intolerance. Along with earlier executive actions, including the undoing of previous efforts to exclude undocumented individuals from the apportionment count and rescinding the racist Muslim and African bans, this is a step towards the right direction.
However, while many East and Southeast Asian Americans have experienced growing insecurity due to COVID-19 related hate and discrimination, South Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) have been negatively impacted in different, yet equally severe ways. Despite the evidence that shows that NHPIs have the highest infection and mortality rates in almost every state with disaggregated COVID-19 data, the administration’s National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, does not prioritize NHPIs. Furthermore, while we believe coordinated guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services and COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force is a necessary first step, we continue to urge that any best practices for engaging with AAPIs must explicitly include the NHPI community and experts.
This memorandum is an important move towards acknowledging the unique ways that AAPI communities have been harmed by the pandemic. Our communities need further action that combats systemic racism and racial health inequities. We look forward to additional opportunities to engage with the new administration to eliminate racial injustice for AAPI communities and all communities of color.
Tavae Samuelu, Executive Director of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) stated:
“I applaud the order and stand in solidarity with Asian Americans. It’s also important to note the specific ways Pacific Islanders have been impacted by the pandemic. We have the highest COVID-19 case and mortality rates in almost every state that disaggregates data– yet the National Strategy for the Biden administration fails to prioritize our communities and in some places omits us entirely. There is no racial equity in the erasure of Pacific Islanders.”
Katrina Dizon Mariategue, Acting Executive Director of Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) said:
“We appreciate the intent of the memorandum signed today by President Biden, which acknowledges the very real impacts that racism and xenophobia have on the health — both physical and mental — of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. However, we echo NCAPA’s concerns about the need to go beyond just disavowing hate against the Asian American community by establishing solutions that address the root impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities, which are best understood through disaggregated data. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are not a monolith, and we see evidence of this in the health disparities, increased levels of poverty, and higher rates of limited English proficiency among the Southeast Asian American communities. While actions of hate have increased against all Asian Americans, COVID-19 has swept through Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Southeast Asian American communities and must be addressed directly by the Administration. We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration as well as with NCAPA to develop and implement tangible improvements for Southeast Asian Americans and all AAPINHs.”
Becky Belcore, Executive Director of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) added:
“We are excited to see President Biden condemning the rise in anti-Asian sentiment fomented by the last administration. As a result of calling COVID-19 the “kung flu and China virus,” which President Trump continued to do even in his final speech as he left Washington, DC, there has been a dramatic rise in hate crimes and anti-Asian sentiment towards our community. This act by the Biden administration is appreciated, and we call on them to combat racism and anti-Blackness at the systemic level in the coming years. We also call on the Biden Administration to move swiftly to provide leadership for and enact change that will concretely improve our community members’ lives, such as a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants and affordable quality health care for all, as they promised in their campaign.”
Sung Yeon, Executive Director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) commented:
“Asian American women in particular have been targeted with public racist harassment and violence, consistently reporting between two and three times more incidents than Asian American men. Under normal circumstances, AAPI women move through public spaces knowing we could be subjected to sexual harassment, physical intimidation, or assault because of our race and gender. The coronavirus has been weaponized against us to enable more racialized misogyny. It’s important for our leaders to visibly reject racist scapegoating and we commend President Biden for showing solidarity with our community. We also want to see his administration take further steps to address the systemic racism that results in disproportionate rates of illness and death among Pacific Islanders and South Asians and pushes health care out of reach for immigrants. The unique and devastating impacts of the pandemic on Asian American and Pacific Islander communities will be felt for years to come and we need the administration to deliver support and resources without delay.”
Myron Dean Quon, Executive Director of National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA) stated:
“Due to the past year’s increased racism and discrimination related to COVID-19, Asian American community members have increased in behavioral health needs and have less access to appropriate resources. The different lockdowns also have increased anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors among AAPI communities. In addition, AAPI business owners have also been struck hard as both front-line essential workers and small business owners—risking infection daily as well as unheard-of rates of unemployment. Finally, as one of the communities that often live in multigenerational and denser housing, our AAPI community members still do not have equitable access to recovery resources. NAPAFASA looks forward to working with the Biden administration to increase equity and actively eradicating discrimination.”
Linda Ng, National President of OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates said:
“It is hopeful to see this first step of public messaging against the discrimination of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) from the new President and his administration. We look forward to engaging the Administration and Attorney General’s office in taking action to prevent anti-Asian hate incidents and ensure they are properly reported. However, AAPI small businesses and frontline workers have not received adequate COVID-19 resources and protections. We need to see tangible action targeting the physical, mental, and economic harm being done to our communities, and furthermore dismantle the fact that AAPIs are seen as one homogenous group.”
Alvina Yeh, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), AFL-CIO added:
“Asian American workers have long spoken up on how xenophobia and racism interact with America’s inadequate healthcare system and outdated labor laws to endanger workers and hinder disease prevention. Over 2 million AAPIs are frontline workers in industries like healthcare, transportation and service industries; these workers are facing xenophobic and racial discrimination in the workplace in addition to increased risk for contracting COVID-19. We are hopeful that anti-discrimination work coupled with federal worker policies that guarantee safe workplace conditions are prioritized, paid sick leave and adequate health insurance coverage is available for all workers, and more will lead us in the right direction of surviving this pandemic together. We must also be wary of following the steps of white supremacists who are scapegoating China for our domestic issues. This only distracts and pivots our resources and people to war mongering.”
Brendan Flores, National Chair and President, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) commented:
“NaFFAA joins its sister organizations in applauding the Administration’s efforts to address anti-Asian discrimination that rose due to terms used during the onset of the pandemic. However, AANHPIs are not a monolith – we are a multicultural group with diverse needs and backgrounds. The Filipino American community, in many areas across the country, has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this past year has amplified pre-existing health disparities in our community. For example, according to the New York Times, 30 percent of nurses who died from COVID were Filipino, even though only four percent of nurses are Filipino. NaFFAA echoes the concerns of NCAPA for our AANHPI brothers and sisters, and calls upon the Biden Administration to provide much-needed relief to the Filipino American community, especially to our healthcare workers serving tireless hours on the frontlines during this pandemic.
Kiran Kaur Gill , Executive Director, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) said:
“The Sikh American community is pleased that President Biden is taking steps to address hate crimes and xenophobia, no matter the community that is targeted. Our community knows to well the devastating impact of acts of discrimination and the impact when our public leaders do not condemn, but rather use language that promotes hate. We urge the Administration to address the unique impacts that the COVID-19 crisis is having on different parts of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and establish stronger protections for those targeted by hate.”
John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC added:
“This move by President Biden to recognize the extraordinary pain being felt in our communities as a result of racist attacks during the pandemic is a welcome action. The last four years of divisive rhetoric and blatant use of derogatory terms have put a target on the Asian American community during COVID-19 and we plan to work with the administration to find solutions to these attacks and other inequities exposed by the global pandemic and previous administration.”
Christine Chen, Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) commented:
“APIAVote welcomes this new memorandum as a meaningful first step to address the ongoing discrimination felt in our communities. COVID-19 and misinformation have been a toxic combination for many of us. In our 2020 Asian American Voter Survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they believed there is significant discrimination against Asian people in our society, while more than half worry about experiencing hate crimes, harassment and discrimination because of COVID-19. As the Biden Administration works to heal the soul of our nation, we are heartened by today’s memorandum and urge them to continue to address the discrimination that COVID-19 has unleashed on our communities.”
Sruti Suryanarayanan, Spokesperson of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) stated:
“As Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, we spent the past year feeling the direct impact of elected officials’ use of xenophobic language, and in turn, welcome President Biden’s memorandum as a step in the right direction. Though this memorandum brings resources to the documentation of hate crimes, including incidents and harassment, we believe that it must be paired with an investment into restorative justice and healing-based community initiatives, namely ones that identify and combat white supremacy and other forms of bigotry.”
David Inoue, Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) said:
“We welcome this first step towards addressing the specific challenges Asian Pacific American communities have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond repudiating the use of racist language to describe COVID-19, we welcome a renewed focus on addressing the anti-Asian hate incidents and crimes that have become all to prevalent, but also remain symptomatic of increasing xenophobia and white supremacist segments within our country and broadly impact all marginalized communities. The creation of a task force to address the inequities of how COVID-19 has impacted APA communities is overdue and will move us towards ensuring all Americans have full access to the medical and economic stimulus programs in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.”
Seema Agnani, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) added:
“As we continue to confront the systemic and deeply entrenched racism and xenophobia that exists in our society, the memorandum issued today is an important first step towards racial healing that is direly needed in order for us to move forward as a country. The previous Administration’s dangerous rhetoric had a profound effect on the daily lives of so many in our communities, who continue to feel unsafe in their own country. While we appreciate the spirit of today’s executive action, we urge the Biden-Harris Administration to put forth restorative, community-based solutions that lift people up and truly respect and honor their roots and histories.“
Juliet K. Choi, Chief Executive Officer of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) stated:
“We appreciate the Biden administration’s fast actions in condemning anti-Asian hate, and willingness to address the critical barriers to care and tackling language access. This is especially important, as some in our community face disproportionate effects from COVID-19 due to already poor health outcomes and the growing number of families who have no access to health care. We are encouraged to see a new roadmap for the whole of the country working together toward racial and health equity.”
Jeffrey B. Caballero, Executive Director of the Association of the Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) said:
“AAPCHO commends President Biden for disavowing discrimination targeting Asian Americans, and his commitment to improving health and racial equity. Today’s executive order is a welcome first step, and we urge the Administration to also confront the institutional barriers that have led to Pacific Islanders having among the highest rates of morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19. This experience has been largely invisible due to the lack of disaggregated data in the majority of the 50 states. The Administration must ensure that the differing and diverse experiences of AAs, NHs, and PIs are recognized and reflected in their equity work. We stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress on this effort.”
Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 37 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.