#DearMyAAPIRep: Please Join Your AAPI Congressional Colleagues in Boycotting Trump’s Inauguration

January 18, 2017

To encourage better and broader civic engagement within the AAPI community in Trump’s America, #DearMyAAPIRep is a new feature that will appear semi-regularly in 2017 that will feature an open letter written to specific Asian American & Pacific Islander elected officials. Each letter will highlight an issue of particular relevance to the AAPI community and will invite a response from our elected officials.

Dear Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Rep. Doris Matsui, and Rep. Bobby Scott,

On Friday, the power of the United States’ highest office will peacefully transfer from the nation’s first Black president and to a man who rose to prominence by fomenting a racist “whitelash” against his presidency. Over the course of the 2016 campaign, President-elect Donald Trump deployed racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, classism, ableism, threats of violence, and the promise of exclusionary immigration laws to cement his majority support among all subgroups of white voters. Today, it remains unclear exactly what legislative damage we might expect with the Trump administration – there is no need for me to list the many looming threats to our liberties and civil rights posed by Trump’s inauguration — but, it is certain that life will be much harder for people of colour under A President Donald J. Trump.

As of this morning, nearly 60 members of Congress have joined a national Congressional boycott against Trump’s inauguration. The boycott was inspired by President-elect Trump’s disdainful (and overtly racist) tweets against civil rights legend (and sitting US Representative) John Lewis. Trump ushered in Martin Luther King Day weekend celebrations with an accusation that Rep. Lewis — who grew up in Jim Crow segregation and who nearly gave his life to the Civil Rights Movement — was “all talk” and that he should focus on fixing soaring crime rates in his “falling apart” district. (In reality, Lewis represents one of the wealthiest, and least crime-ridden, districts in Georgia.) In response to this bizarre and offensive attack, Rep. Lewis mused that Trump was not “a legitimate president”, citing US Intelligence reports that Russia had deliberately influenced the election’s outcome for Trump.

In the wake of this latest Trump Twitter dust-up, members of the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific American Caucuses rallied to Lewis’ defense with declarations that they would join him in a boycott of Trump’s inauguration. That movement has since spread throughout the House. Currently, four of Congress’ AAPI congressmen – including Reps. Mark Takano, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) chair Rep. Judy Chu – are participating in the boycott.

Rep. Lieu cited Trump’s history of “racist, sexist and bigoted” remarks as motivation for his decision to participate in the protest. “For me, the personal decision not to attend Inauguration is quite simple,” said Lieu. “Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis.”

I applaud Reps. Takano, Lieu, Jayapal and Chu for taking a courageous stance this Friday against Trump and for the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Although this boycott is a symbolic gesture, it is one of deep significance to this nation’s marginalized people: our elected officials indicate by their decision to boycott this week’s inauguration ceremony that they will not smile in the face of bigotry and hate; that they will not politely tolerate this nation’s fresh enthusiasm for intolerance; and, that they will not stand on ceremony for the regression and rescindment of our civil rights.

And so, to my nine AAPI representatives who have chosen not to join their colleagues in protest, and to attend Trump’s inauguration this Friday: I am deeply puzzled by your decision.

The vast majority of AAPIs did not vote for Donald Trump last November, and for good reason. Many AAPIs are afraid. Donald Trump deployed a campaign of hate that included racial mockery of Asians and Asian Americans. He has threatened to exclude, deport, or deny entry visas to multiple groups of immigrants. His proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act will leave 1 in 15 AAPIs (as well as millions of other Americans) without healthcare coverage. Donald Trump will be inaugurated as this nation’s 45th president on Friday, but he will not be a president who speaks for – or to – Asian America, or most any other marginalized American.

For that reason, we must take this opportunity to peacefully resist Trump’s inauguration, and to oppose all the bigotry and hatred that his campaign has come to represent and celebrate. Donald Trump will be president, but he will not be a president for our people. Donald Trump will be a president who rolls back progress for our people. His ascension to power is a symbol of bigotry and intolerance; the Congressional boycott is therefore an appropriate and necessary symbol of hope, tolerance and acceptance of (and for) the people.

Representatives Bera, Gabbard, Meng, Murphy, Hanabusa, Khanna, Krishnamoorthi, Matsui and Scott: this is your opportunity to join your fellow AAPI colleagues in taking that strong stance together. I hope that you will reconsider your earlier decision to travel to Washington, D.C. on Friday, and that you will instead add your names to the growing list of Congressional representatives in their courageous  boycott of Friday’s inauguration ceremony.

I invite you to respond with a public statement regarding this request.



Update: At the same time as this letter’s publication, Representative Grace Meng announced she would join the boycott of Friday’s inauguration ceremony. Thank you to Representative amend for joining our other representatives in this courageous act of protest.


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