11 Inspiring Asian American Political Leaders
On May 20, 2021, President Biden made history by signing the first bill of its kind into law: the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which was introduced into Congress by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), will designate people and resources to investigate the massive spike of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans during the pandemic. The bill is the first of its kind in that it acknowledges the struggle of a specific group and also in that it was penned by two AAPI women. In addressing the ongoing racist attacks, the government hopes to prevent future violence.
This progress may not have happened, but a video that Grace Meng made went viral in March 2021, illustrating the urgency of fighting hate. During hearings held by Congress to address the spike in violence against AAPI folks, Chip Roy brought up off-topic issues with the very finite amount of time that was allocated to discuss the ongoing issue. "This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community," Meng said on the video.
Both Meng and Hirono were sworn into their positions in 2013. Hirono, who served in Congress from 2007-2013, was the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate and is the first person born in Japan to serve in the Senate. As a Senator, Hirono has advocated for stronger pre-kindergarten education programs and has made birth control more accessible across the country. Representing Queens, NY, Meng has fought against vandalism made in the name of religious beliefs and supported increased funding for community colleges.
The term "trailblazer" is typically applied to people who are the first, or one of the first, to achieve a certain goal or position. But a harsh reality today is that every political and community leader of AAPI descent is doing some form of path-setting for future leaders. With no space guaranteed to Asian individuals, these leaders have earned their spaces and are finally in a position to advocate for people who have been traditionally underrepresented.
With the passage of this historic bill, Meng and Hirono are two great figures deserving of celebration. Below, we have highlighted 8 other inspiring Asian American political leaders.