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Asian American leaders meet with White House about AAPI hate

Photo via via Flickr Creative Commons by Rachel Kudarski

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

Activists from the Asian Pacific Islander community met Thursday with White House Policy director Susan Rice to discuss ways the Biden administration could help stem the tide of anti-Asian hate.

The coalition represented East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander groups. Many left the meeting hopeful the gathering will be followed with meaningful action from the White House.

It’s the first of what many in the community are hopeful will be a continuing dialogue on the issue.

“We’re definitely not seeing this as a one-off,” said Cynthia Choi, Co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, one of three groups behind the Stop AAPI Hate reporting website.

AsAmNews spoke with three attendees of the meeting who all described it as a productive and welcomed listening session.

“For the first time in four years, we got to sit with an administration that wanted to hear what was happening,” said Jo-Ann Yoo of the Asian American Federation in New York. “It wasn’t an administration that was calling us “Chinavirus” or “kung flu.” They were very understanding. They had a lot of concern. They wanted to hear from us.”

Bo Thao-Urabe of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders in Minneapolis expressed concerns about the rising tensions being felt as the trial in the death George Floyd is set to get underway. Jury selection is scheduled to begin next week with opening arguments expected by the end of the month in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who had his knee on Floyd. The other three officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are scheduled to go on trial in August.

“We have seen our government leaders use an approach of a military response rather than creating a response that listens to community,” she said. “We are concerned about safety of communities that want to be heard.”

Barriers have been erected in and around the courthouse and the National Guard has been called in by Gov Tim Walz (D-MN)

Others called for approaches to breaking down systemic racism rather than more policing.

“Just based on our data-we’ve been dealing with this issue of violence and crime mainly in working class communities,” said Choi. “When you have communities that are deprived of basic needs, when you have communities that have high unemployment, mental health issues, lack of opportunities, you’re going to see those division and you’re going to see that will lead to more violence and crime.”

Groups represented included:

*   Asian Americans Advancing Justice: John Yang
   *   Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus: Aarti Kohli
   *   Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum: Juliet Choi
   *   Asian American Federation: Jo-Ann Yoo
   *   Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations: 
Jeff Caballero
   *   Asian American Journalists Association: Naomi Tacuyan Underwood
   *   AAPI Civic Engagement Fund: EunSook Lee
   *   Chinese for Affirmative Action: Cynthia Choi
   *   Coalition of Asian American Leaders: Bo Thao-Urabe
   *   Empowering Pacific Islander Communities: Tavae Samuelu
   *   National Asian Pacific American Bar Association: Priya Purandare
   *   National Council on Asian Pacific Americans: Gregg Orton
   *   OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates: Thu Nguyen
   *   Sikh American Legal Defense & Educational Fund: Kiran Gill
   *   South Asian Americans Leading Together:  Mahnoor Hussain
   *   Southeast Asian Research Action Center: Quyen Dinh

“Other representatives from the White House at the meeting included White House Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond, Acting Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs Laura Shin, and Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President, Rohini Kosoglu.

Those from the White House did very little talking during the meeting.

“We don’t want them to talk at us,” said Yoo. “It was really refreshing for them to listen to what we are dealing with. Everybody was really heartfelt, thoughtful. all of us in the AsAm community, it was very emotional.”

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