Deputy Administrator Paloma Adams-Allen on the History of Anti-Asian American Violence in the United States–And Why It Matters Today

Speeches Shim

Thursday, May 5, 2022

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ADAMS-ALLEN: Good afternoon, everyone! And thank you, Jun, for getting us started.

I want to thank our colleagues, particularly those from the Asian Pacific American Employee Committee, the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, and our Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning for bringing this important event to life and giving us the space to reflect on the invaluable contributions of the AANHPI community to our Agency and our country’s history, but also to hold the mirror up to ourselves and ask if we’re doing enough to confront the hatred faced by Asian American and Pacific Islanders in our own lives, communities, and yes, our workplace.

It is a pleasure to be joined today by Representative Grace Meng of New York; Deputy Assistant to the President and AAPI Senior Liaison, Erika Moritsugu; and Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute, Jessica Lee, who will be joining our panel discussion in just a few minutes. Thank you for spending time with us.

And I want to thank all of you who have carved out time to tune in for the next 90 minutes or so. As you’ll see and hear throughout today’s discussion, the AANHPI community has a long history of leading at USAID—and not just leading hard discussions like the one we’re having today, but in deepening the impact of our work, in bringing us together to celebrate America’s diversity, and in demonstrating how we can best see ourselves in each other.

The actions that emanate from this community galvanize the best of America, but there is still so much work to be done.

Just yesterday, a survey released by two non-profit organizations, “The Asian American Foundation” and “Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change,” reaffirmed the same disturbing trends that we have seen in recent years.

More than a fifth of respondents believe Asian Americans are responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic; up from 11 percent the previous year. Thirty three percent said they believe, quote “Asian Americans are more loyal to their country of origin than to the United States,” up 20 percent from the previous year. And among Asian American respondents, 71 percent say they are discriminated against in the United States today.

Horrifying, to be sure, but the harmful words and sentiments barely scratch the surface of this crisis, as many of you know.

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism recently reported that hate crimes against Asian American communities rose 339 percent last year compared to 2020. Three hundred and thirty nine percent.

As development professionals working to expand opportunity for marginalized and underserved communities around the world, we must spare no effort to fight these harrowing trends at home, and the work begins right here, with each of us individually.

The question will be fairly asked—how can we as an Agency be a leader in standing against discrimination and hatred when we have often fallen short of our own goals to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility?

A key part of our mission is demonstrating to the American public that our investments abroad are fundamental to making America a safer, more inclusive, and more equitable place to call home. But safety, inclusivity, and equity are not just abstract concepts that we strive for… not in the work we do abroad, and not in how we better ourselves as an Agency.

At USAID, we have a unique story to tell about building bridges between communities; fostering dialogue to achieve mutual understanding; and reconciling differences to bring hope and opportunity to everyone, especially the most marginalized.

I can tell you that today, we are being truly intentional about transforming USAID into the diverse, inclusive, equitable, accessible workplace that each of us deserves.

We are focused not just on strategies for recruitment but also retention, equitable compensation, and opportunities for promotion, with a new Chief Diversity Officer and her team leading these efforts.

We are expanding our demographic data collection, allowing us to better understand where and what kind of gaps exist in our efforts to promote equity and professional development.

We are engaging with more Minority Serving Institutions and expanding opportunities for historically underrepresented communities.

And this is just a start. We are committed to reconciling the wrongs of the past and fostering a culture of belonging–where equity, inclusion, and accessibility are universal priorities.

The accomplishments, contributions, and service of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Island communities, including those of our own colleagues at USAID, extend deep into, and in some cases, precede American history.

We have the power at USAID to shine a light on these stories of resilience and courage, and lift up those who are determined to thrive in the face of rising hatred.

And because for too long we’ve met these and similar challenges with words instead of actions, let us set an example for the rest of the world. Speak out when you witness hate. Make sure the communities we intend to serve have a seat at the table. Be willing to listen and learn with humility. We all bear these responsibilities.

That’s what today’s session is all about, so I will leave it there, and turn the floor back over to Jun to introduce our next speaker.

Thank you.

Last updated: May 05, 2022

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