Story at a glance

  • Among an inclusive Cabinet, President-elect Joe Biden did not nominate a person of Asian Pacific American descent to a role in his administration.
  • This follows widespread reports of anti-Asian American discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If all nominees are confirmed, the Biden-Harris administration is set to make history with the most diverse cabinet in the history of U.S. presidencies. 

Among the venerated list of nominees are men and women from diverse backgrounds, including nominees who identify as Native American, South Asian American, Latinx and Black American. 

Biden’s planned Cabinet will also feature a significant number of women leaders, as well as Pete Buttigieg serving as the first openly gay Cabinet member to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

While the diverse roster is a hallmark of improved representation in government, some demographics remain excluded.


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The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) issued a statement on Jan. 11 expressing disappointment with the absence of a person of Asian Pacific American heritage to be nominated for a cabinet role.

Acknowledging that the Biden administration “set a new benchmark for...a diverse and inclusive government,” the advocacy organization points out that no Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders were appointed to cabinet positions, an absence it refers to as “an egregious step backwards.”

“There are numerous qualified AAPIs [Asian American Pacific Islanders] who should be appointed to senior positions throughout the government,” the NCAPA said in a press release. “Furthermore, NCAPA is prepared to stand behind the quality and expertise of our member organizations, as we have members who are willing and prepared to engage with the Biden Administration in nearly every policy area ranging from health to housing, or education, immigration and civil rights.”

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that as of April 2020, there are approximately 1.1 million people of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander descent who call the U.S. home. 

2018 data showcases similar figures, counting about 1.6 million U.S. residents of Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander descent. 

The NCAPA’s call for increased inclusion follows a strenuous time for the Asian American community set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having originated in Wuhan, China, President Trump’s usage of the informal and inappropriate term “China virus” in reference to COVID-19 coincided with increased reports of racist discrimination and harassment against Asian Americans.

Recent reports suggest that several Asian communities are still reeling from the bigotry.  

So severe and frequent were these incidents of racism that the U.S. passed a measure condemning anti-Asian American discrimination as related to COVID-19.

In closing remarks, the NCAPA hopes to see action by the Biden administration.

“The moment demands that we come together as a country, as we must rebuild our country and restore our democracy,” it read. “We look forward to working together with the Biden Administration as we share in the responsibility of putting America back on a path that leads to a more just, tolerant, and frankly, kind country.”


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Published on Jan 11, 2021