AMID the surge in hate crimes and other issues the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community continues to face during the pandemic, a grassroots organization is calling on the Biden administration to reestablish the White House Initiative on AAPIs.
AAPI Progressive Action, a group started in response to the Trump administration’s policies, issued a memo on Wednesday, February 17, calling for the reestablishment of the White House group with several recommendations adapting to the current climate.
The group is recommending that the White House Initiative on AAPIs — which has first started under President Bill Clinton and renewed by subsequent presidents to address issues concerning the community — be reestablished by the end of May, which marks Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Among the key points include addressing challenges facing the AAPI community, such as health disparities, economic inequality, unemployment and racism, which have been heightened during COVID-19.
The AAPI community largely has been affected by the virus, given several factors including employment in frontline industries like health care, preexisting health conditions, and living in multigenerational households.
Asian American women made up the largest group of unemployed individuals in the last six months of the pandemic, according to a 2021 National Women’s Law Center report.
And nearly 3,000 incidents of xenophobia and discrimination have been reported by community members since last March. In the first two months of 2021 alone, several reports of attacks against elderly Asian Americans have gone viral.
“In the last year, we have seen how AAPIs contribute to this country, from working and dying on the frontline of the COVID pandemic as health care and other essential workers, to being the margin of victory in elections,” said Dr. Tung Nguyen, chair of AAPI Progressive Action and former chair of President Obama’s Advisory Council on AAPIs. “Yet, AAPIs are facing a massive wave of racism, both from individuals and institutions. We need an empowered and diverse Commission to help the Biden administration to address the issues facing our communities.”
The group is also recommending: placement of team or staff with centrally delegated authority inside the White House or Eisenhower Executive Office Building to ensure effective coordination with policymaking, communications and public-facing White House offices; that the WHIAAPI be co-chaired by the Director of Office of Management and Budget alongside a key agency Secretary; and the appointments of at least 20 commissioners representing the various ethnic groups and the ability to add more as needed.
“AAPIs are the fastest-growing population in the country. Their needs are deep, diverse, and deserving of attention across and at the highest levels of government,” said Doua Thor, former WHIAAPI Executive Director. “If the Biden White House reestablishes WHIAAPI with stronger infrastructure and access from previous administrations, this new WHIAAPI will be able to do more to better serve the community.”