The White House rolled out the first-ever strategy to advance Asian American, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian communities Tuesday in a townhall online meeting as the country continues to grapple with anti-Asian hate crimes.
Hate incidents against Asian Americans soared in the aftermath of the pandemic as Asians became scapegoats for COVID-19 which started in Wuhan, China.
The new strategy features plans by 32 federal agencies calling for combatting anti-Asian hate and better language access for non-native speakers. FBI data shows that anti-Asian hate crimes increased 73% in the past two years while overall hate crimes rose 13%.
John Tien, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, said in the online gathering it’s important that Asian communities understand there is support.
“It’s on us, the government, to do better,” Tien said.
Communication can be a matter of life and death, Tien said, adding that language access is crucial. Translations are provided in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, as well as other languages.
On the law enforcement end, 55 defendants were prosecuted in 2021 with 50 convictions in bias crimes against Asian Americans, said Associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta. Federal departments across all sectors are involved to ensure communities are safe, she said.
To combat hate crimes, $20 million is being spent on law enforcement and community groups, creating funding for hotlines and other safety 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 report from various federal departments Tuesday come after President Joe Biden’s executive order in May 2021. In the executive order, government agencies drew plans to advance equity and justice for Asian Americans.
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is the first national plan of its kind with elected officials, federal leaders, community members and prominent Asian Americans working together to combat racism.
According to the nonprofit 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 the incidents involving hate speech.
The Asian American community has suffered severe mental health anguish due to being stereotyped and targeted as America grappled with the effects of the pandemic, said Korean American actor Daniel Dae Kim. The hate crimes in cities such as New York, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco have targeted the elderly and Asian women. A community that has been reluctant to speak out due to cultural norms is now active.
“I have never seen our community come together as it has,” Kim said.
Mary Chao is a Specialty Reporter at Scripps News covering Asian American issues and real estate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.