I will always remember March 16, 2021, when eight people — including six women of Asian descent — were shot to death in Atlanta. It was devastating, but it was also unsurprising given the rise of anti-Asian rhetoric, much of it fueled by former president Donald Trump, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
His use of terms like “Kung Flu” and “Chinese Virus” stoked anti-Asian sentiment, ultimately resulting in a record level of Asian American hate and violence in America. The shootings in Atlanta were just one high-profile example of the consequences of hateful language aimed at a specific racial community and the lack of condemnation by the Republican Party.
One might hope Trump would learn from his mistakes and stop using racist, incendiary language to describe Asian Americans. But he hasn’t.
Over the weekend, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, and released a post in which he called Elaine Chao, his former Labor secretary and wife to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, “China Loving Wife, Coco Chow.”
The response from the vast majority of Republicans — including McConnell and Chao herself — has been silence. What’s more, Republicans who have been asked to respond to the post, including Senator Rick Scott of Florida, downplayed the severity of Trump’s words, calling it merely a “nickname.” Their silence and avoidance against the backdrop of racism speak volumes about the lack of political courage among too many Republicans.
Since the start of the pandemic, Republicans have shown their true colors to Asian Americans. Their pattern of hateful words and actions, which persist to this day, put our lives on the line. As an Asian American, I want to live in a reality in which both Democrats and Republicans seek to make our lives better.
But that reality does not exist. Virtually everything that Trump and the Republican Party say — or, in many cases, fail to say about Asian Americans — leads me to one conclusion: There is no home for Asian Americans in the Republican Party anymore.
Contrast this with President Biden and Democrats. While they haven’t directly responded to Trump’s most recent comments, they have been forceful in their condemnation of anti-Asian rhetoric. They are actively healing the wounds Trump created and meeting Asian Americans where we are, taking real action to improve our lives. Within the first week of his administration, Biden signed a memorandum that directed all federal agencies to stand up to anti-Asian hate and violence. He also signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, further protecting Asian Americans and other communities from being subject to violence.
In large part, the policy successes for Asian Americans under Biden are because of his commitment to creating an administration that reflects America. Take the appointment of Erika Moritsugu as the first Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander liaison. Or Vice President Harris’s background as an Indian American and US Trade Representative and cabinet member Katherine Tai’s Chinese heritage. Ultimately, when Asian Americans have a seat at the table, progress becomes all the more possible.
While much work remains in rooting out anti-Asian hate, at the very least, Democrats and Biden understand that words matter. Rather than trading in racist language for political gain like Trump, they are listening to and elevating Asian American voices — and, even better, taking tangible steps to improve our lives.
The difference between how Republicans and Democrats treat Asian Americans couldn’t be starker. It’s time for every Asian American to realize that Trump and the Republican Party don’t serve our interests. It is time for all Asian Americans to unite and stand against the Republican Party.
For many Asian Americans, it may be hard to do. I understand. My parents once supported the Republican Party because they aligned with Republicans on fiscal issues. They believed in the Republican idea of limited government. But the perception that they — and other Asian Americans — may once have had about the Republican Party is no more. Now, it’s a party that doesn’t respect and value our safety, our economic well-being, or our lives.
Republicans may change eventually. They may finally learn that consequences come with their words and actions. They may, at last, realize the damage they have done to Asian Americans.
But until that happens, the only way forward is for Asian Americans to come together, be clear-eyed about the danger of the Republican Party to our lives, and support the only political party that treats us with the dignity we deserve, which means voting for Democrats.
Next month, millions of voters will make their voices heard at the polls. For Asian Americans, this is an opportunity to send a clear message to Trump and Republicans that we will not tolerate their attacks on us. Not now. Not ever.
Victor Shi is a junior at UCLA, was elected as the youngest delegate for Joe Biden in 2020, and cohosts the iGen Politics Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Victorshi2020.