DETROIT – United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today joined a community vigil at the Hart Plaza hosted by Asian and Pacific Islander Americans Vote – Michigan to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings.
In her remarks, Ambassador Tai discussed the need to eliminate anti-Asian bias and hate from our society. She noted that as we honor the eight individuals lost one year ago, we are reminded of the death of Vincent Chin, a Michigan resident who was murdered in a racially motivated hate crime in 1982. At the same time, Ambassador Tai expressed her belief that these acts of violence do not define the AA and NHPI communities and she noted the resilience and strength that many have displayed.
Ambassador Tai’s remarks from today’s vigil as prepared for delivery are below.
Good morning, Detroit! I want to begin by thanking Rebeka and A.P.I.A. Vote Michigan for inviting me to join you on this important day for our community.
It’s great to be back in Michigan. And on behalf of President Biden and our entire administration, I want to thank all of you for the important work you are doing to lift up the voices of Asian women and bring attention and awareness to the challenges that we face.
We gather today to mark two tragic events that span four decades. One year ago, Delaina Yaun, Paul Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Suncha Kim, Hyung Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, and Yong Ae Yue were murdered in Atlanta.
My thoughts -- like all of yours -- are with their families, friends, colleagues, and also with the loved ones of members of our community who lost their lives to senseless, hateful violence.
At the same time, the memory of Vincent Chin is in my constant thoughts. His name has always carried significant weight in our community, but especially here in Michigan as we approach the fortieth anniversary of his murder.
These acts of violence across multiple generations are a reminder that anti-Asian hate is not new. It is the source of deep anxiety and pain that keeps many of us up at night -- in fear for ourselves, our parents, our neighbors, and our loved ones.
Throughout the pandemic, the constant presence of violence and bigotry directed at our community have been overwhelming, but they are not new. Many – if not all of us – have faced ugly stereotypes throughout our lives.
For Asian women in particular, this sense of community is vital. We must remember that we are not alone in combatting the disproportionate sexism and violence that is directed towards us.
That is why this vigil is so important. Our solidarity reinforces that acts of racism and violence against women are unacceptable. It sends the message that these acts of violence do not define our communities. It shows that you cannot pit us against each other. You cannot push us into the shadows. It shows our collective determination that these forces will not – must not – succeed.
But I want to take you back to where I was one year ago, awaiting a confirmation vote on my nomination to be the United States Trade Representative. While preparing to take on this job, I was also deeply shaken by the violence, hate, and pain targeted at the AAPI community. But I also observed, with pride, the strength demonstrated as our community stood up and rallied.
The tragedy of that horrific day was still very raw two days later when I was sworn in as the first Asian American to hold my position by Vice President Harris, the first Black and Asian American woman to hold hers.
A few months later, I proudly joined my colleague, Secretary Xavier Becerra, to co-chair the White House Initiative and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
This whole-of government Initiative and our amazing Commissioners will help advance equity and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities, while creating a network that can support – and lift up – one another. Our work his hard, but critical, and we will need your support and guidance.
I want to be honest. Moving from the trenches to the front line is new to me. I’ve honed my skills as a trade negotiator largely behind the scenes, striving to create trade policy that respects human dignity and support workers.
As the chief trade policy spokesperson and negotiator for the United States, I believe we have a great opportunity to advance inclusive economic policies that lifts all boats and leads to greater prosperity.
That is why I am especially proud to represent an administration that has – for the first time in history – put racial and gender equity at the center of its agenda.
So even as we continue to mourn the lives lost and forever altered, this vigil gives us hope. We can heal as a unified community and create a network of empathy and support.
We must remind ourselves that we are not alone in combatting these challenges. As Yuri Kochiyama advised, “We are all part of one another.”
As an Asian American woman serving at the highest level of government, I feel a personal duty and responsibility to the victims, their loved ones, and our communities to respond to both the moment and mandate.
As I join you on the behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration, I am inspired by the resilience in each of you, and I am proud to stand alongside you, as a partner, an advocate, and an ally.
In this somber moment, remember that we are always working to perfect our union, to make it more tolerant and just. The work and strength represented here today is proof that we are resilient, and that progress is possible.