Members of a newly-formed caucus in the state legislature say they intend to begin a listening tour next month to gather feedback from the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community about issues they are facing in the wake of a string of violence and harassment targeting Asians across the country.
State lawmakers on Friday announced the formation of the Virginia General Assembly’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Caucus and outlined the group’s priorities for supporting a community that members said often under report when they are the target of crimes and harassment.
Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87th), one of the caucus’ co-founders, said members of the AAPI community don’t want to be seen as playing what he called the “race card.”
“And so, I think … part of the goal of this caucus [is] to address the fact that many sentiments and crimes against Asian Americans go underreported; that it’s okay to come forward,” Subramanyam told The Times-Mirror.
Subramanyam said beginning in April there will be planned regional listening sessions in Central Virginia, Northern Virginia and the Tidewater areas.
He said the sessions will help lawmakers gauge the issues and concerns in the respective communities, which will be incorporated into the caucus’s policy agenda, scheduled to be announced in May, and used to support future legislation.
“Policy alone will not end this violence or stop the prejudice or stop the discrimination that so many Virginians face in this moment,” said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D). “It will require all of us — every single one, every single Virginian to forcefully denounce the harmful stereotypes, the scapegoating and [which] ultimately has caused so many of these attacks.”
In November 2019, Subramanyam became the first Indian American and Hindu American to be elected to the Virginia state legislature. The number of Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers in the General Assembly now stands at five, he said.
Asian Americans make up 20.3 percent of the population in Loudoun, according to a 2019 Census report. Across all of Virginia, Asian Americans make up 6.9 percent.
Democratic Sen. Ghazala Hashmi and Dels. Mark Keam, Kathy Tran, Kelly Convirs-Fowler and Subramanyam co-founded the caucus, which other lawmakers have since indicated they wish to join, according to Subramanyam.
Subramanyam, who represents parts of Prince William and Loudoun counties, said he hopes the caucus will be a champion for AAPI issues. He also urged the Asian American community to engage with lawmakers during the listening sessions.
Dates will be published on social media.
“If they don’t get the response they need from authorities or officials, they should come to us,” Subramanyam said. “That is part of the reason why we’re here.”
“This also isn’t just about crimes, or anti-Asian sentiments, it’s also trying to empower the AAPI community economically, socially, and addressing concerns of AAPI small business owners,” he said.