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Justice, Fairness, Inclusion, and Performance.

AAPI Heritage Month Spotlight

Pursuing a More Perfect Union and an Equitable Society

By: Jeremy Wu

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Reflections from Academy Fellow, Jeremy Wu, Co-organizer, APA Justice,

Equity means the consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including the Asian American and immigrant communities.

However, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during the Second World War, persons of Asian origin have been scapegoated in the name of national and economic security when discrimination was legalized by laws and executive orders.

Since the Second World War, anti-Asian hate and discrimination in one form or another has ebbed and flooded pending the rise and fall of U.S. relations with Asian nations and domestic politics that stoke fear, suspicion, and hostility against Asian Americans as disloyal and cannot be trusted as Americans.

This form of racial profiling has been instigated by our own government, repeatedly explained away, and justified under the cover of national security that sacrifices the civil and human rights of the Asian American and immigrant communities.

This inequity has disastrously high and painful costs to not only these communities but also our nation. It ruins individual lives and inhibits our participation and progress in American society. It damages our global leadership in science and technology and, ironically our national security. It undermines our fundamental American values as a nation of primary immigrants except for Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

During the “Red Scare,” the government drove Dr. Qian Xuesen, a co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, back to China. He would later become the “Father of Chinese Rocketry” for the People’s Republic of China.

At the turn of the century, the unjust prosecution and mistreatment of Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, led to an apology from the presiding judge on behalf of the judicial branch of our government.

Prior to and during the “China Initiative” launched in November 2018, hundreds of, and perhaps more, scientists and researchers of Asian and particularly Chinese origin in academia, government, and private industry were wrongfully targeted for extensive surveillance, endless investigations, and unjust prosecutions.

The victims include a hydrologist at the National Weather Service whose work was to calibrate and implement flood models to help save lives along the Ohio River, a New York Police Department officer who also served as a U.S. Marine in Afghanistan, and an award-winning scientist who spent 24 years with the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate.

According to a comprehensive investigation report by Science Magazine on March 23, 2023, the National Institutes of Health’s “China Initiative” has upended hundreds of lives and destroyed scores of academic careers—an editorial call for the institutions and NIH to account for its xenophobic program.

Despite their stated intent to protect the nation, government policies and practices have again and again created a chilling effect on our communities, resulting in the loss of talents that are needed for our nation’s scientific leadership and denying us the opportunity to participate fairly and fully in American society.

Xenophobic political rhetoric from the past administration and some elected officials during the COVID pandemic fueled the resurgence of racism, leading to the loss of lives, especially for the vulnerable elderly of our communities, and the report of more than 11,500 incidents of anti-Asian bias since 2020.

Today, we see discriminatory Alien Land Laws and similar bills being revived in more than a dozen states including Texas, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wyoming. The U.S. Congress is considering similar bills that threaten the civil and human rights of the Asian American and immigrant communities, again in the name of national security. If enacted into law, they will deny Asian Americans and immigrant communities directly and indirectly from owning homes and business properties.

More than a hundred years ago, discriminatory Alien Land Laws were enacted first in California and then in other states to target Japanese Americans and bar Asian immigrants from owning land. These laws were deemed unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment in 1952, yet 70 years later we see the same laws and rhetoric being brought up again.

Today, we also see the return of McCarthyism - the practice of making unfounded accusations of disloyalty, subversion, and treason, carried out under then-Senator Joseph McCarthy from 1950-54, to blacklist, slander, and attempt to destroy reputable innocent Americans.

Today’s McCarthyite targets include a world-renowned MIT professor, a presidentially appointed business leader, and the Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Anyone who is of Asian origin or has a nexus to China may become a target tomorrow.

On this slippery slope, no one in the Asian American and immigrant communities will be safe and spared from anti-Asian hate and discrimination.

This vicious cycle of recurring inequity must stop with our government taking the lead to give due attention and protection to the civil and human rights of the Asian American and immigrant communities.

In our pursuit of a more perfect union and an equitable society, there must be consistent and systematic, fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals. This includes the Asian American and immigrant communities.

There are needs for short-term relief and long-term solutions. It is a Grand Challenge of our time. The National Academy of Public Administration is uniquely situated to address this issue by starting a dialogue to raise awareness and conducting a commissioned study to advance fair and balanced policies and practices that are truly diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible.

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