Joe Biden is officially the president-elect of the United States and is expected to be inaugurated next Jan. 20 of 2021. Many are optimistic for what the future holds as we approach the end of current president Donald Trump’s four year term and the “interesting” year that 2020 has been. Moving forward, one big question remains on everyone’s mind: How will Biden’s presidency impact the country?
According to the United States Census Bureau, the country had a total population of 328,239,523 in 2019, and the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) community made up 6.8% of that statistic. 22,371,683 is a huge number of people, and the fact that it will keep growing illustrates the significance of the APIDA population. In a country heralded as the world’s “melting pot” where various cultures are celebrated, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of each ethnicity and the uniqueness they bring to the table. As such, the APIDA community is one of many that should be considered when discussing Biden’s potential impact as president.
Here at UCLA, the dynamic is flipped as Asian Americans made up the largest percentage of the student population at 28% of 31,568 undergraduates in 2018-19 according to the UCLA website. The fact that the APIDA community comprises a significant portion of such an esteemed and diverse academic institution stresses the importance of Biden’s impact on Asian Americans. I recently interviewed a few Asian American undergraduates to gain an insight into their opinions on the new president-elect. The following responses have been slightly edited for clarity.
What do you think Biden’s impact is going to be(in general) for the majority of the American populus?
Lydia Yi, a Korean-American Global Studies and Political Science major: “I think for the majority of the American population, Biden’s presidency is a sign of hope for minorities. I hope to see a more unified country, where our diversity will be embraced– that’s what I think makes America truly great.”
Joanna Huang, a Taiwanese-American Psychobio major: “I feel like he’s not gonna have that big of an impact on the majority just because he’s definitely more of a moderate president, and he’s not exactly super liberal. I don’t think he’ll push for anything super out of line. Even if he does, the congress is really slow when it comes to making bills because of the two party system, so even if something does pass the democratic party in the house, it’s probably not going to pass the senate.”
What do you think Biden’s impact on the APIDA (Asian American) community will be? Do you foresee his presidency having a big impact on you as an APIDA?
Mia Elliott, a Chinese-American Public Affairs major: “Joe Biden is really respectful of the Asian American community, and he’s never referred to COVID-19 as the Chinese virus or Kung Flu. I think he’ll inspire people to be once again respectful of Asian Americans by reinforcing the idea that these kinds of offensive statements are unacceptable and really offensive. Personally, not feeling targeted just for being Asian will make me feel a lot safer in public and not like the overall culture is judging me for something that’s out of my control.”
Yi: “Biden is able to address racism as a problem and expresses some type of dedication to maintaining diversity (which in itself should be a bare minimum for the president of a country with such a substantial minority population). Although I don’t believe that his presidency will enact any large change (not including necessary policy reversals from the last 4 years), I believe that it will at least bring back a necessary condemnation of discrimination to the White House.”
As an APIDA, what issues/values do you have that Biden appeals to and that you want him to address?
Elliott: “Diversity. For me I really value diversity, and I think that it’s a huge part of the American experience. I want to live in a place where diversity is celebrated and I feel welcome instead of people being fearful of other people from other countries and races.”
Huang: “Social issues such as healthcare, education, and the environment, environmental friendly energy, and science.”
Yi: “[Biden’s] superior professionalism and understanding of politics and the American government is definitely something that appeals to me. I think that having a leader who is competent and able to serve as a good representative of our country is something that is able to benefit foreign policy negotiations and reinstate our reputation to be taken seriously.”
How does clause 6 of Biden’s COVID-19 plan specifically mentioning China make you feel as an APIDA? Does this change your perception of him?
Elliott: “I think that his wording was interesting. However, it’s a different thing to say that a virus originally came from China, because that’s a fact and no-one can deny that, rather than calling it a Chinese virus [and associating it] with everyone who’s Chinese, even Chinese Americans.”
Huang: “Well, the fact that he name-dropped China is a bit iffy to me. I don’t like that, especially for [people] coming from China. I feel like putting the first part of the clause is enough[.] Obviously, China is the origin of the virus, but there are so many different factors that go into the spread of the disease, [that] the blame can’t be pinned on China itself. I think it’s pretty unfair for him to put China’s name on that and call them out for it.”
From these responses, it appears as if the general consensus among the APIDA community is one of both hope and skepticism. With 2020’s COVID-19 crisis, the APIDA community was unfairly targeted for the simple fact that the virus originated in China. This was only exacerbated by current President Trump’s repeated reference to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus”, which further shifted the blame onto APIDAs. These responses reflect the hope that Biden will address this unjust racism and tackle such issues as diversity, education, healthcare, and America’s global image stemming from its future leader’s professionalism. However, they also reveal the skepticism of Biden’s capability to enact larger changes due to things like the two party system.
Clause 6 of Biden’s COVID-19 plan seems to have had mixed reactions from the interviewees, and it illustrates the divisive nature of the public’s perception of Biden. Some are in strong support while others are more reserved. However, shared by all is a sense of optimism largely stemming from president Trump’s negative actions. Though many celebrate Biden’s victory, these responses are a good reminder that in any situation positivity must be exercised with caution, as there’s always a possibility for the unexpected, seeing how 2020 has turned out. Though Biden’s election is generally a positive step forward, let us be careful in assuming all our issues are resolved: as the NBA champion Lebron James said, “Job’s not finished.”