Harris calls on Asian Americans to turn ‘pain into action’

Vice President Harris
Greg Nash

Vice President Harris said Wednesday that she shares in the “outrage and grief” experienced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over the past year, but urged the community to turn “pain into action” during an appearance at a virtual summit marking Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

“I know this past year has been marked by pain, so much pain for so many, including in particular members of the AAPI community,” Harris said in remarks to the summit hosted by the AAPI Victory Alliance.

“As a member of this community, I share in that outrage and grief and I believe we have an opportunity now to turn that pain into action. To turn that pain, that righteous anger, because of the injustice of it, we have an opportunity to turn that into power.”

The appearance at the summit was clearly personal for Harris, who in January became the first Asian American vice president in history, in addition to the first Black person and first woman to hold the position.

Harris told her audience that Americans have a “unique opportunity now to shape our nation’s future, to transform how we live, how we work and how we vote for the better.”

She decried hate crimes against Asian Americans, which various studies indicate spiked during the coronavirus pandemic. Harris cited a statistic from the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, which has received reports of over 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

“Asian Americans have the right to be recognized as Americans. Not as the other. Not as them, but as us,” Harris said. “In America, I do believe that any harm against one of us is a harm against all of us.”

Harris’s remarks at the virtual summit came a day before Biden is expected to sign into law legislation meant to combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. The bill passed the House in a bipartisan vote on Tuesday.

The vice president underscored the work of the Biden administration to increase representation in unions and remove barriers preventing some Americans from working, like lack of access to childcare. President Biden’s jobs and families proposals, which total $4 trillion, include investments to expand home care for the elderly and childcare.

Harris also underscored the need to make it easier to vote and fight against what she described as “attacks on voting rights, an apparent reference to bills in Georgia and other states that place restrictions on the ballot box.

“We must see these efforts for what they are. Let’s be clear eyed. They are an attempt to suppress the right to vote,” Harris said. “As far as I’m concerned, voting rights is not a Democratic right or a Republican right. It is an American right.”

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