U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Chris Lu (seated, center) meets with key leaders across the AAPI communities. (Photos courtesy Office of the Mayor)

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

The perception that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are “white adjacent” was dismissed as deceptive on June 13 during a meeting that brought key leaders from the city’s AAPI communities together with Christopher P. Lu, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for U.N. reform and manabgement.

Hyepin Im, founder of Korean Churches for Community Development, called for an end to the perception that AAPIs are “white adjacent.” Im blames data aggregation, the practice of combining statistics from multiple AAPI ethnic groups, thereby skewing numbers that may show AAPIs statistically doing better than they actually are.

Lu, who is in town to give the commencement address at Santa Monica College, was invited by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass to meet with the AAPI representatives. In addition to a call for data disaggregation, the meeting brought to light issues such as the lack of AAPIs in decision-making positions, persistent anti-Asian hate, language access, and economic disparities among various groups within the AAPI population.

It was also noted that of the 24 million people of Asian descent in the U.S., slightly less than 1% of the elected leaders at all levels of government are AAPI.

Glenn Osaki, senior advisor to the president of the University of Southern California, was joined by Esther Kim, assistant professor of education, in providing an overview of where AAPIs stand today.

Ambassador Chris Lu (center) is joined by Glenn Osaki (left), USC senior vice president and chief communications officer, and David Ikegami, Little Tokyo Buriness Association president.

Lu pointed out that, while the number of Laintx business owners increased 13% and Black ownership increased by 3% during the pandemic (January 2019-December 2021), AAPI business ownership decreased by 4%.

James An of the Korean American Federation of Los Angeles added that deficiency in language access most often prevented AAPIs from applying for low-interest loans and grants during the pandemic. 

Lu pointed to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, its chair, Rep. Judy Chu of Monterey Park, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and others who are continually working to address concerns faced by AAPI. In the pursuit of solutions to these issues, Lu advised, “We need to call out politicians within both parties.”

During his public service career, Lu has worked in all three branches of the federal government. From 2014 to 2017, he served as U.S. deputy secretary of labor. From 2009 to 2013, he served as White House Cabinet secretary and assistant to the President Barack Obama.

The son of immigrants, Lu was only the second Asian American in history to become a deputy secretary of any Cabinet department.                                                  

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