White House names members of AAPI visibility task force

Rich Polk
·3 min read

The White House on Monday released the names of 23 people tasked with advancing “equity and opportunity” for Asian Americans.

As part of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, the group of academics, nonprofit leaders and activists will use their new roles to combat anti-Asian hate that has come to the fore during the pandemic. The group will also help work toward adding more language options in federal programs, disaggregating Asian American and Pacific Islander data and rehabilitating small businesses.

Actor Daniel Dae Kim is one of those on the advisory board. The White House cited in its press release Kim’s advocacy in the wake of anti-Asian hate attacks, specifically the former “Lost” star’s membership on the Asian American Foundation.

“One of the best things about people speaking up and speaking out has been there’s been a groundswell movement unlike anything that I’ve experienced in my lifetime,” the 52-year-old actor told the "TODAY" show in April. “More Asian Americans have spoken up; more marches have happened around the country than I’ve even seen.”

The commission was established to advise President Joe Biden on the needs of the country's growing AAPI population, and its leaders promise to address the concerns of those who exist at cross sections. Members of the LGBTQ community, women and those with disabilities will all be given priority, according to the press release.

Biden has brought on Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. Ives-Rublee has worked in civil rights for the disabled, aiding in job access, health care and community support.

In an attempt to rehabilitate Asian-owned businesses that suffered disproportionately throughout the pandemic in some states, many of the 23 on the advisory board represent the private sector. Entrepreneur Ajay Bhutoria is an executive in Silicon Valley and an advocate for South Asian-owned businesses. Kerry Doi, a fourth-generation Japanese American from Hawaii, works partly in economic justice and developing small businesses in AAPI communities.

Disaggregating data collected under the “Asian” umbrella term is also a priority of the initiative. Activists and scholars have long pushed for clearer data when it comes to individual communities so issues can be more easily identified and addressed. This is especially important when it comes to the pandemic, experts say, as the wide wealth gap between groups labeled as Asian might paint over the severity of its impacts.

“I call this the ‘gaslighting of the Asian American population,’ and it has been going on for decades, for every single health condition that I can think of,” Tung Nguyen, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told NBC Asian America in October 2020. “It is an example of anti-Asian structural racism.”

Adding more language options for federal documents will be another priority, according to a press release. When it comes to accessing aid programs during Covid, this might be a crucial determining factor, Paul Ong, a professor and researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in September

“Before you can apply, you need to know this program exists,” he said.

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