President Biden’s top aide on Asian American community affairs spoke at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on Friday to address challenges facing the community, including a stunning rise in racist attacks and other incidents of discrimination in the city.
Erika Moritsugu, who was born and raised in San Francisco before moving to Hawaii at the age of 6, serves as the deputy assistant to the president and the first-ever Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) senior liaison at the White House.
She said it’s an honor to serve in the historic position under President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who is Black and South Asian, and “build on and expand the president and vice president’s commitment to our communities that pre-existed long before they were sworn in.”
The former Golden Gate Heights resident, who is of Chinese and Japanese descent, is a veteran political staffer in the federal government. Under pressure from several Asian American members of Congress, Biden created the senior-level position and announced Moritsugu’s appointment last year amid the Stop Asian Hate movement.
“My role is to make sure that the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander perspectives, goals, hopes and the challenges are brought to bear, taken into consideration as we work across all policy areas and all political areas,” Moritsugu said.
San Francisco made national headlines in January with its reported 560% surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Moritsugu said it’s important to pay attention to the mental health of the community.
“The first thing I would say is to be able to name it and acknowledge and honor that pain,” Moritsugu said, adding that the community should be careful about the mental and emotional toll on the community, especially elders and children.
Moritsugu was joined at Friday’s event by Krystal Ka‘ai, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. The pair are scheduled to tour San Francisco’s Chinatown and Chinese Hospital over the weekend.
Han Li can be reached at [email protected]