Biden Takes Action to Fight Anti-Asian Hate Sparked by Pandemic

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In an effort to advance racial equity in the U.S., President Joe Biden signed a memorandum that condemns and combats “racism, xenophobia and intolerance” against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).

The directive, one of four similar executive orders signed Tuesday, acknowledges the role the government has played in the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes amid the COVID-19 pandemic — while recognizing the contributions of AAPI front liners.

The memorandum primarily directs the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, to issue guidance on “cultural competency, language access and sensitivity” toward AAPIs in the context of the government’s coronavirus response.

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Meanwhile, executive departments and agencies must ensure that official actions, documents and statements “do not exhibit or contribute” to racism, xenophobia and intolerance against the community.

The order also asks the Department of Justice to find opportunities to support the prevention of hate crimes against AAPIs, as well as to expand data collection and public reporting of such incidents.

AAPI groups have lauded the Biden administration’s move.

“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for recognizing that our communities have suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, said in a statement. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, political leaders including the former President and current members of Congress have repeatedly used racist rhetoric such as the ‘China virus,’ ‘China plague’ and ‘Kung flu’ when referring to COVID-19, which has stoked xenophobia and led to increased racism and discrimination against Asian Americans who are being wrongly blamed for COVID-19.”

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“Racist and xenophobic language should have no place in our government documents or policy. It should have no place in our society at all,” the organization added.

Manju Kulkarni, executive director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) — which has monitored anti-Asian hate crimes through the Stop AAPI Hate coalition — welcomed the directive as “real action that’s taken to support AAPI communities.”

“I think these are very promising,” Kulkarni told NBC News. “And I think it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”

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Cynthia Choi, co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), said that Biden’s move is part of the “accountability” needed by the community for healing. CAA joined A3PCON, along with the Asian American Studies (AAS) Department at San Francisco State University (SFSU), to form Stop AAPI Hate.

“To have our administration, the Biden-Harris administration, recognize the painful history of racial discrimination and xenophobia in our country is a necessary first step,” Choi told ABC News. “It does send a powerful message that the lives of Asian Americans (are) included as part of this racial reckoning, and we look forward to working with this administration and our elected officials in this process.”

Biden’s racial equity orders on Tuesday include directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to redress racially discriminatory policies that have “contributed to wealth inequality for generations.” They also end the Justice Department’s use of private prisons and recommit the government to Tribal sovereignty.

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Feature Image via Getty 

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