Asian Americans Advancing Justice Applauds Presidential Memorandum Countering Anti-Asian Racism

We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for recognizing that our communities have suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins 202-296-2300, ext. 0144

Washington, D.C. —  On racial equity day, President Biden issued a presidential memorandum acknowledging the harm caused by harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and condemning anti-Asian bias and discrimination. This memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to issue guidance on cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that federal agencies avoid discriminatory language. The memorandum also directs the Department of Justice to engage with AAPI communities on issues related to hate crimes, hate incidents, and harassment.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, releases the following statement:

“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for recognizing that our communities have suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.  

The Asian American and Pacific Islander community has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and faced higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths than white Americans. Many of our community members are working as frontline essential workers to keep our country safe and our economy in motion, and yet at the same time, Asian Americans are being targeted by hate incidents at unprecedented levels.

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 presidential memorandum, announced today, will begin the process of accountability that we need to address the anti-Asian racism and xenophobia our communities have suffered during COVID-19, as well as the deep structural racism that has manifested itself throughout U.S. history. 

The Biden-Harris Administration took note of our campaign to identify anti-Asian hate as a priority issue and to examine how the federal government collects data and addresses the hate incidents, hate crimes, and harassment our community is experiencing. While it is important to recognize the rise in these incidents and collect data in a robust manner, we must also prioritize community-centered solutions to hate violence — including some restorative justice approaches.

This COVID-19 memorandum is a first step in what we believe will be a longer road to stopping racist attacks against our community and building toward greater equity, and we look forward to working with the Biden Administration to ensure the best outcomes for our communities.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to push to ensure the concerns and experiences of our communities are actively incorporated into this administration’s race and equity priorities and to reverse the consequences of hatred endured by communities of color.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to amplify and address this hatred by tracking reports of racist incidents on where victims and witnesses can tell their stories, find legal assistance, and resources."