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"From Victory to Unity" AAPI Summit will be headlined by Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: AAPI Victory Alliance Twitter
"From Victory to Unity" AAPI Summit will be headlined by Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo: AAPI Victory Alliance Twitter

VP Kamala Harris to be keynote speaker at “From Victory to Unity,” honoring the AAPI community

The first Vice president of South Asian descent has joined the growing call to fight AAPI hate across the U.S.

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According to a new study conducted by Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH), 37% of white Americans say they are not aware of an increase in hate crimes and racism against Asian-Americans over the past year. 

Twenty-four percent of these study participants also said that anti-Asian American racism isn’t a problem that needs addressing.

Most striking though, is the finding that 42% of Americans answered “Don’t know” when asked to name a prominent Asian-American, while 11% named the martial arts icon Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan — who is not an American citizen.

This particular statistic is troubling, considering U.S.’s Vice President is of South Asian descent, and many other prominent Asian-Americans appear in mainstream media quite often, such as Andrew Yang, Awkafina, Mindy Kaling, Riz Ahmed, Ted Lieu and Olivia Rodrigo.

LAAUNCH’s study also revealed something much less shocking — 80% of Asian-Americans don’t feel respected and believe they are discriminated against. The current statistics on hate, harassment and violence back up their collective feelings. 

According to the online self reporting tool put together by Stop AAPI Hate, there were 6,603 hate incident reports from March 19, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

Nearly half of Americans may not be able to name a prominent Asian-American, and 24% may not believe that anti-Asian racism is a problem, but this is not the case for many Democrats in Congress.

On Wednesday, April 14, the Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which seeks to efficiently track anti-Asian hate crimes, train law enforcement to better identify anti-Asian racism and designate an official in the Justice Department to examine and speed up pandemic-related hate crime reports and more. 

The House is expected to give final passage on Tuesday, May 18, signing it into law.

During a meeting with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) last week, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the increase in anti-Asian violence and discrimination.

“We’ve seen how Asian-American small businesses have been targeted recently in particular because of the COVID virus and what it’s done in terms of our economy. We have seen how many Asian-American women have been struggling with unemployment, many of whom have been front-line workers. We have seen [how] the Asian-American people in our country have been targeted by vicious expressions of hate,” Harris said. 

Harris concluded her remarks with a call for unity, saying that “harm against anyone is harm against all of us.” 

Building on this momentum, Harris will serve as the keynote speaker for a virtual event for the AAPI community titled “From Victory to Unity” on Wednesday, May 19.

The event, which is AAPI Victory Alliance’s first unity summit, will feature celebrities like Tan France and Simu Liu as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckwroth, Mazie Hirono and Cory Booker. 

"It's time we call our communities together to discuss strategies for engaging and mobilizing in the future," said Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance. 

"Vice President Harris is an inspiration for all of our AAPI children who now know that the sky's the limit and you can be anything in this country that they strive for," Nikore said. 

Harris’ appearance, which comes during AAPI Heritage Month, is the vice president’s latest effort to raise awareness, express solidarity with her fellow Asian-Americans, and build unity that will create change. 

Following the Atlanta shooting that led to the deaths of six Korean immigrant women, Harris and President Joe Biden flew to Atlanta to meet with leaders in the community. 

"Racism is real in America. And it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism too," Harris said at the time. "The President and I will not be silent. We will not stand by. We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs."

During last week’s meeting, Rep. Judy Chu, chair of CAPAC, told CNN that the group spoke about the rising violence against the AAPI community, voting rights, language access and concerns over the COVID-19 crisis in India

Harris told the group that she recently spoke with her aunt and uncle who still live there, and said she was worried about them. The Biden administration is facing pressure to share excess vaccine doses with India

Chu and Harris stressed that the vaccines “cannot just stay in Delhi,” calling for even distribution among the various regions in the world’s second-most populous country. 

Chu said that Harris also spoke in-depth about voting rights, highlighting the swell of AAPI voters in Georgia that helped to flip the traditionally Republican state blue for the first time in over 20 years. 

"She said we have to go out there and draw the line between our voting rights and the way we impact people's lives for the better,” Chu said. 

While Harris serves as the highest-ranking Asian-American woman in the country, Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers make up just 3% of Congress, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

Only one Asian-American serves in the President's Cabinet: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Last month, the White House also named Erika Moritsugu as AAPI senior liaison as it faced pressure from Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono for greater AAPI representation within the White House.

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