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As Asian Americans mourn shooting victims President Biden hosts a Lunar New Year event at the White House

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden speak at a reception celebrating the Lunar New Year in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden speak at a reception celebrating the Lunar New Year in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted a Lunar New Year reception at the White House Thursday night. On the other hand, Americans mourn the recent mass shootings in California, including Asian-American victims and perpetrators.

Speaking against the backdrop of a red fan and golden kanji, Biden began by praying and observing a moment of silence for the victims, before welcoming members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.

“Jill and I are honored to welcome you to the first Spring Festival reception of this magnitude at the White House, at your home,” Biden said.

Biden stressed that the Asian American community has experienced “deep hatred, pain, violence, and loss” as anti-Asian hate crimes have increased, in part as a result of inflammatory rhetoric related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That’s why I’m proud that, with the help of many of you in this room, we signed the Coronavirus Disease Hate Crimes Act of 2019,” Biden said. Biden was referring to a bill passed in May 2021 that addresses the rise in anti-Asian hate and holds law enforcement accountable for tracking and reporting hate crimes.

On Saturday, a 5-year-old Asian-American was suspected of killing 72 Asians in Monterey Park. An 11-year-old Asian-American was charged with killing seven people in Half Moon Bay two days later. The dead included Chinese and Latino farm workers. An investigation is underway to determine the motive for the shooting. On Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Monterey Park to meet with families of the victims and call for action to control guns.

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“As a compassionate nation, we will always mourn for those who lost their lives and pray for those who survived and those who are recovering,” Harris said. “But we must also demand that the leaders of our country, those who have the ability, the power, and the responsibility to do something, they act.”

Janelle Wong, a professor of American studies and government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, said the Lunar New Year event was part of the White House’s outreach efforts to the Asian-American community and was “an important symbol of engagement and inclusion in times of shock and grief.”

“The Biden administration also applauded the start of Diwali and Ramadan, all of which were shared with attendees in print and social media,” she told the media.

According to the Pew Research Center, 2 million people in the United States, or 200 percent of the population, are considered Asian alone or along with other races or ethnicities, with ancestry from more than 7 countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.

They are also a key demographic for Biden. Biden flaunted that 13.7 percent of his administration is a member of the AAPI community. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing group of eligible voters.

Over the past 20 years, they have been more likely to vote Democratic than Republican and support a traditional Democratic agenda, including stricter gun laws.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration launched a national agenda to address inequities facing Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities through action plans developed by 32 federal agencies.

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The Biden administration has also initiated a series of summits to advance economic equity for the AAPI community, aiming to connect them to critical resources and opportunities.

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