Rep. Young Kim: Bipartisan stand needed against hate crimes that target Asian Americans

I never thought that less than three months into my first term as a member of the House of Representatives, I would be testifying before a House committee to simply say that “Asian Americans are Americans” and that “no American of any race or ethnic group is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, in light of the recent events we have witnessed as a nation targeting the Asian American community, I feel a duty to speak out as one of the first Korean American women to serve in Congress in support of the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

The rise in violence and hateful actions we have seen across U.S. communities during the COVID-19 pandemic is abhorrent, unacceptable and must stop. This is wrong and not reflective of the country that decades ago welcomed my family and me from South Korea. It also undermines the millions of Asian Americans contributing to our country each day.

People march during the "We Are Not Silent" rally against anti-Asian hate in response to recent anti-Asian crime in the Chinatown-International District of Seattle, Washington on March 13, 2021. (Photo: JASON REDMOND, AFP via Getty Images)

My family came to the United States in pursuit of the American dream. We emigrated from South Korea to the island of Guam. I remember walking along the beach as a young girl with my mom to pick up cans and bottles. We would bring back any money we made from recycling to our church as our way of giving back to the community that welcomed us.

As immigrants and Asian Americans, this is deeply embedded in who we are. I attended high school in Hawaii, and then put myself through college at the University of Southern California, where I received a business degree.

I remember seeing my parents, who had the equivalent of an elementary school education in America, as I walked down the aisle to receive my diploma. To graduate college and get a job in the private sector, I thought to myself that this is my American dream.

It was only the beginning. I was then able to start a business, raise a family and give back to my community, first working for Congressman Ed Royce, then as the first Korean American Republican woman to serve in the California State Assembly and now in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I do not say this because my story is unique, but because striving to succeed and giving back is the story of so many Asian Americans across this country.

Discrimination has deep roots

While many Asian Americans have experienced bias over the past year, we know that discrimination against the AAPI community has occurred well beyond the pandemic, spanning back to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese laborers from coming to the United States.

Much work remains to be done and in light of recent events, I helped introduce a bipartisan resolution condemning recent hate crimes. I also am talking with colleagues to find ways to better track records of these crimes.

However, we cannot legislate hate out of people’s hearts and minds. Real change happens with each of us taking personal responsibility.

I will continue to work to help heal our divisions while speaking out for the AAPI community as it experiences bias and attacks.

Set aside partisan bickering

As we work to overcome the challenges of recent attacks, partisan bickering will only obscure this issue and drive our country further apart on an issue that should be unifying.

Words have consequences, which is why I spoke out against the use of insensitive rhetoric such as “kung flu.” Our leaders must work to unify, not divide, and this rhetoric does not do that.

At a time when we are more and more divided as a country, pointing fingers will only worsen our society’s problems. 

The United States is not perfect, but I hope we can unite and continue the American tradition of working together to live up to our nation’s ideals and create a more perfect union.

We have come a long way. The fact that I and so many other members of the AAPI community are serving in Congress is proof of how far we have come. The only way we will build a brighter future is by coming together — and that starts with treating one another with respect and seeing each other as Americans.

Supporting the AAPI community and combating hate and violence are bipartisan priorities. Asian American issues are American issues, and I look forward to continuing to bring my perspective as a member of the AAPI community and proud American to the national dialogue.

U.S. Rep. Young Kim is a Republican from California.

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