Editor’s Note: Grace Meng and Judy Chu are elected Democratic politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives. The views expressed in this piece are solely their own.
Words matter. And a president’s words matter even more. That’s why it is critical that we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who use their words to unify and inspire us to be our best selves.
As President Trump continues to incite anti-Asian sentiment during the coronavirus pandemic, his words have incited discrimination and violence against Asian Americans across our nation.
Like patients denigrating nurses with racial slurs. Perennial calls for Asian Americans to “go back home.” Even the president’s words: “China plague,” “Kung flu,” and “Wuhan virus.” All of them have the same meaning: You are not welcome here. Not in this neighborhood, not in this town, and not in this country. Since January, at least a third of Asian Americans have been called a racial slur. In recent months, more than 2,900 hate incidents against Asian Americans were logged. And these are just the incidents that are being documented. That’s one of the reasons we introduced and advocated for H. Res. 908, a resolution condemning all forms of anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19. The measure recently passed the House, and in doing so, sent a message that bigotry will not be tolerated.
This is nothing new. For a long time, Asian Americans have been overlooked not only when it comes to policies but also when it comes to racism. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Japanese American internment during World War II to the anti-Asian coronavirus bigotry we see today, our community knows how dangerous it can be when we are used as scapegoats.
On top of an increase in racial violence, Asian American communities have also faced the direct consequences of this pandemic. More than two million of us are frontline workers — doctors and grocery clerks and caregivers —working hard to save lives and keep America running. And millions more work in industries like retail and hospitality that have been hit hardest by closures, leading to record-high unemployment levels among Asian Americans.
Moreover, Asian American-owned businesses have faced unique challenges to keeping their doors open. In both of our districts, Asian owned businesses were the first to lose customers long before stay at home orders were first issued. And in New York City alone, the pandemic threatens to shutter more than half the city’s Korean American-owned dry cleaners. Not only are our businesses more likely to be affected by the pandemic, but they’re also less likely to receive relief. When the federal government launched the Paycheck Protection Program, it ran into a major problem in reaching immigrant communities: language barriers. A month later, after we repeatedly urged them to, the Small Business Administration finally added support for 17 languages — but for many Asian American small businesses, that was too little, too late.
Joe and Kamala will do what Trump has failed to do: work hard to stop the spread of coronavirus. They’ll make sure every American has access to quality health care — especially the most vulnerable among us, like Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders who have been dying from COVID-19 at some of the highest rates in the country.
And instead of going to court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, like Trump is doing, Joe will make our healthcare system stronger. Because when his son Beau was fighting cancer, he learned what it was like to face a mountain of medical debt — and nearly had to sell his house because of it.
Joe and Kamala will also help mom-and-pop shops and small businesses get back on their feet. And from day one, Joe and Kamala will make sure Asian American businesses — all 2 million of them — get their fair share of federal funds.
They’ll also prioritize fighting hate crimes because our communities deserve to be protected and appreciated. And when we say our communities, we mean all of them.
But before they can do any of this, Joe and Kamala have to win — and that means all of us need to do our part. Because, as Joe says, this is more than an election. It’s a battle for the soul of our nation. It’s about who we are as a country. And if Trump’s vision for our country wins at the ballot box in November, it’s hard to think about what’s in store.
After all, this is the man whose words — and actions — tear us apart every single day.
But Joe and Kamala can bring our country back together. And they’re counting on us to use the power of our vote to get them to the White House.
About the Authors: Congresswoman Grace Meng has served New York’s sixth congressional district in Queens, New York City since 2013. She is the first Asian American to be elected to Congress from New York.
Congresswoman Judy Chu has served California’s 27th congressional district in Southern California since 2009. She is the first Chinese American woman elected to the United States Congress.