January 12, 2021

 

In Wake of Mostly-White Insurrection, AAPI Representation Even More Vital to Ensure a "Cabinet that Looks like America" 

Washington, DC — Last week’s Georgia Senate run-off elections capped a historic cycle for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) participation in the Peach State. APIAVote Executive Director Christine Chen issued the following statement on the Biden Administration’s lack of AAPI representation at the Secretary level:

“We are overjoyed that Asian American and Pacific Islanders made their voices heard so loudly in last week’s Georgia Senate elections, as well as throughout the 2020 cycle. With those campaigns behind us, it is of the utmost importance the new Administration and our Congressional leaders begin addressing our most pressing problems, including the COVID-19 vaccine and economic relief for working families.

“Our elected officials owe a great debt of gratitude to the AAPI community. Many of their elections were made possible by the significant contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander votes. Approximately two-thirds of AAPI’s supported the new Administration, and AAPI’s turned out in record numbers during the general election. According to one analysis, AAPI voters increased their turnout relative to 2016 more than any other demographic group across the swing states.

“While we are thrilled that Vice President-Elect Harris is the first person of South Asian descent to hold that office, we are dismayed about the lack of an AAPI Cabinet Secretary. There were multiple highly-qualified AAPI’s for Cabinet Secretary positions, yet no final selections across all 15 agencies with Secretaries. This represents a significant step backwards in representation from President Obama, President Bush and President Clinton’s Cabinets, as well as the current Administration.

“Last week’s insurrection underscores the urgency in President-Elect Biden’s own promise at our APIAVote Presidential Town Hall that he would nominate a Cabinet that looks like America. A mostly-white mob of insurgents attacked the U.S. Capitol holding flags of hatred, while screaming racial epithets in the People’s House. Asian American and Pacific Islanders have served on the frontlines of our nation’s wars to protect our nation’s highest ideals, and have unfortunately been victim to its excesses and overreach, particularly Japanese Americans during World War II.

“Our calls for representation come from a long-held understanding in ethnic communities that having a seat at the table ensures our government’s policies reflect all of its people. During the George W. Bush Administration, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta helped ensure the Bush Administration would not make the same catastrophic mistake that led to the interments of Asian-Americans in Korematsu v. United States. Our community understandably has questions about where it fits into the new Administration, given that our faces will not be the ones setting and implementing policy as Cabinet Secretaries.

“As our nation seeks to heal from the destructive and violent events of the last year, it would be a proper gesture of respect and gratitude to welcome AAPI’s into the next round of Cabinet nominations, senior White House and agency leadership, and boards and commissions.”