Elaine L. Chao
My day started on a fine spring morning with a cup of coffee, an enchanting serenade of a songbird in front of my kitchen window, and a hateful email entitled, “Go back to China, China woman.”
We are americans. I was born in Taiwan and came to America when I was 8 years old. I received my citizenship when I was 19 years old. But for those armed by ethnicity, “Go back to Taiwan, Taiwan woman” would not be the bow they are looking for. It was not the first such letter and it will not be the last.
Others – also targeted for their parentage – have been subjected to far worse abuse, including violent beatings and even murder. It is outrageous that in the 21st century in America, every one of our fellow citizens and residents lives in fear and endures such attacks because they look like their ancestors did not come here on the Mayflower.
Alarming rise in hatred in the COVID era
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an alarming rise in anti-Asian prejudice, hatred and deadly violence. Although I have worked at the highest levels in the federal government and dedicated myself to a life in public service, I am not immune to these malicious attacks, false stories, and allegations of infidelity to America.
Such repulsive rhetoric is unfortunately not new; Every time my husband runs for office, the opposition has no problem challenging my ethnic heritage and patriotism and mobilizing against us.
Even the media has attacked me and my family for no reason. However, all of this pales in comparison to the physical threats and intimidation facing Asians in America as they continue to be the scapegoat for the pandemic. It’s heartbreaking as we recognize May as the month of heritage for Asia-American and Pacific islanders – a time for our nation to celebrate the achievements and contributions of this community.
Like so many others, my family came to America for a better future. My father took first place on the national exams in Taiwan and was given the opportunity to study abroad. My parents knew that if they could get to America they would get a shot at the American dream.
With no money or paperwork for a woman seven months pregnant and two young daughters, my father came to America alone. It was three years before he could bring us to America.
Terminology “people of color”:After the hatred of Asian Americans, I am calling for back racist solidarity and the term “people of color”.
The first few years were difficult; We didn’t speak English and lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. But my parents were confident that America was the land of opportunity. This is the dream of millions of Americans.
We’re connected by an idea, not what we look like. Americans therefore look like the rest of the world. The best and brightest come to our coast looking for a better future. Your dreams and aspirations drive our nation to flourish.
The AAPI community needs to be more visible
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are an integral part of American history: we make up nearly 7% of the US population. And while AAPIs are underrepresented in American history books, they have been an integral part of this nation for hundreds of years.
While we are now more successful and integrated than before, the AAPI community is often not seen as influential. Our community has a collective purchasing power of $ 1 trillion, but American media, products, and campaigns are nowhere near enough to recognize us. There is a growing awareness of the need to be more visible and vocal among the Asian-American and Pacific islanders.
One such promising organization is the Asian American Foundation, founded last week by a group of prominent Asian-American entrepreneurs to fight anti-Asian violence and discrimination and fund various key programmatic initiatives. Your historic efforts to raise record levels of resources in support of AAPI organizations and initiatives are commendable. During my tenure as US Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Transportation, I have sought to improve access to greater opportunities for underserved communities, including Asian American and Pacific islanders. Since I left the Federal Office, I have been determined to continue these efforts.
Hopefully this Month of Heritage of the Asia-American and Pacific Islanders will increase appreciation that America’s diversity and freedoms were and have been America’s greatest strengths.
Elaine L. Chao (@SecElaineChao), the first Asian American to serve in a presidential cabinet, was Secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration and Secretary of Transportation in the Trump administration. Her eight years as Bush’s Secretary of Labor made her the longest-serving cabinet member since World War II.