The White House on Tuesday launched the first strategy to advance Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian communities in a townhall online meeting as the country grapples with anti-Asian hate crimes.
Hate incidents against Asian Americans escalated after the pandemic as Asians became scapegoats for COVID-19, which began in Wuhan, China.
The new strategy calls for 32 federal agencies to tackle anti-Asian hate and use better language for non-native speakers. FBI data shows that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 73% over the past two years, while overall hate crimes have increased by 13%.
Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien told the online gathering that it is important that the Asian community understands that there is support.
“It is up to us, the government, to do better,” Tien said.
Communication can be a matter of life and death, Tien said, adding that language use is important. Translations are provided in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese as well as other languages.
At the end of law enforcement, 55 defendants were prosecuted in bias crimes against Asian Americans in 2021, with 50 convictions, Associate US Attorney General Vanita Gupta said. He said federal departments are involved in all areas to keep communities safe.
To combat hate crimes, $20 million is being spent on law enforcement and community groups, raising funds for hotlines and other security measures. There are more than 18 million Asian Americans in the United States, the fastest growing ethnic group in the country according to the 2020 Census.
The reports from various federal departments on Tuesday came after an executive order from President Joe Biden in May 2021. In the executive order, government agencies set out a plan to advance equity and justice for Asian Americans.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans is the first national plan of its kind on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, with elected officials, federal leaders, community members and prominent Asian Americans working together to combat racism.
According to the non-profit agency Stop AAPI Hate, more than 11,500 hate incidents against Asian Americans have been reported between March 2020 and March 2022. Harassment is a major problem, with 67% of incidents related to hate speech.
Korean American actor Daniel Dae Kim said the Asian American community has faced severe mental health pain as the US grapples with the effects of the pandemic. In cities like New York, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, hate crimes have targeted the elderly and Asian women. A community that has been reluctant to speak up due to cultural norms is now active.
Kim said, “I’ve never seen our community come together more.”
Mary Chao is a specialist reporter covering Asian American issues and real estate at Scripps News. Email [email protected]