As a descendant of Japanese-American relatives who were sent to internment camps during World War II, I am painfully aware of the impact of discrimination against Asian Americans in our history. Incidents of racial injustice and violence are abhorrent and have no place in any society. The recent acts of violence in Atlanta against Asian Americans, and in particular women, represent another sad chapter in a year fraught with racial hatred and injustice.
I want us all to recognize how hard it can be for our global community, especially for our American staff of Asian descent, to watch these events unfold. The efforts many of us are devoting to Diversity and Inclusion in foreign affairs agencies are more important than ever. All of us have a role to play in contributing to an inclusive workplace and society.
Too many Asian Americans have been waking up each morning this past year fearing for their safety and the safety of their loved ones. pic.twitter.com/LI3iLREoMr
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 19, 2021
Yet those of us posted abroad should not shy from broadcasting the tremendous opportunities that the United States has provided to all its citizens, including people of Asian descent and other people of color. These opportunities were the reason my grandparents emigrated to the United States during the 1930s.
Several of my relatives fought for the U.S. armed forces during World War II, because they believed in the cause of freedom and the rights of the individual. After the war ended, they went on to become successful in a number of fields. One of my uncles became the first Asian American college president in the United States.
My home district’s current representative to the U.S. Congress is Japanese-American, and the U.S. Senate just confirmed our first Asian American to serve as U.S. Trade Representative. An American of Thai descent, Tammy Duckworth, has risen to become a U.S. Senator. Every day, we read about the achievements of Asian American athletes, scientists, teachers, engineers, artists and others who inspire us to serve our communities in our chosen professions.
As I said with my Korean counterpart today, we are deeply saddened by the horrific shootings in Atlanta. My thoughts are with those affected. As @POTUS has made clear, we stand with the Asian-American community and against hate. https://t.co/m5Q0Csp7rM
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 18, 2021
To quote from Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s eloquent remarks this past week in Alaska: “A hallmark of our leadership here at home, and that’s a constant quest to, as we say, form a more perfect union. And that quest, by definition, acknowledges our imperfections, acknowledges that we’re not perfect, we make mistakes, we have reversals, we take steps back. But what we’ve done throughout our history is to confront those challenges openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, not trying to sweep them under a rug. And sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but each and every time, we have come out stronger, better, more united as a country.”
Secretary Blinken’s words exhort Americans to do more to stamp out injustice and ignorance wherever they may appear. They will guide us as we confront these challenges at home as well as abroad.
About the Author: Michael Heath is a Career Foreign Service Officer serving as the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand for the U.S Department of State.