For most of the last year, Asian-Americans have sounded the alarm over the rising discrimination they have experienced and witnessed, fueled in part by racist language and false claims about the coronavirus by former President and other public officials. Celebrities, activists, and influencers on social media have implored people to stop the hate against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Asian Americans were already worn down by a year of pandemic-fueled racist attacks when a white gunman was charged with killing eight people, most of them Asian women, at three Atlanta-area massage businesses. the suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was not immediately charged with hate crimes. Authorities said Long told them the attack was not racially motivated and claimed that he targeted the spas because of a sex addiction. Six of the seven slain women were of Asian descent.
Law enforcement needs “some training understanding what a hate crime is,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. “This man identified targets owned by Asians.”
Being Asian American herself, Huang said the shootings felt personal. She is worried that not classifying the attack as a hate crime will “absolutely discourage others from coming forward and seeking help.”
She also cringed at the comments of a sheriff’s captain who said of the gunman: “It was a really bad day for him.”
The remark “appeared to be trying to explain and justify” the suspect’s actions, Huang said. “Hopefully it was a misstatement.”
Asian American lawmakers have expressed heartbreak on social media and emphasized the need to support Asian American communities during this moment. The official Twitter account of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus wrote that its members are “horrified by the news at a time when we’re already seeing a spike in anti-Asian violence.”
Many lawmakers acknowledged a heightened sense of fear among Asian Americans as a result of the increasing number of hate incidents.
Rep. Judy Chu of California reminded people of the effect of anti-Asian rhetoric.
“As we wait for more details to emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and rhetoric have real life consequences,” she wrote on Twitter. “Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate.”
The following are several resources related to some of the history of Asian-Americans in the U.S. and some of the discrimination they have faced. I hope you can use these resources to learn about a highly diverse community and share what you have learned with others.
Health and population statistics for Asian Americans:
National trends (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health): https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=63
Income inequality among Asian Americans: https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/07/12/income-inequality-in-the-u-s-is-rising-most-rapidly-among-asians/
Select policy decisions and experiences:
Brief overview of anti-Asian racism in the U.S.: https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/03/18/history-anti-asian-violence-racism/
Chinese Exclusion Act: https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/chinese-exclusion-act-1882
Japanese farms legally seized and redistributed during WWII: http://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1992/02/02/bitter-harvest/c8389b23-884d-43bd-ad34-bf7b11077135/?tid=ss_mail
Prosecuting hate crimes against persons of South Asian and Arab descent: https://www.justice.gov/crt/combating-post-911-discriminatory-backlash-6
Asian American perspectives on historic and recent events:
“Why This Wave of Anti-Asian Racism Feels Different”: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/03/cathy-park-hong-anti-asian-racism/618310/
“Asian Americans see shooting as a culmination of a year of racism”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/asian-americans-see-shooting-as-culmination-of-year-of-racism/2021/03/17/481f9374-8744-11eb-bfdf-4d36dab83a6d_story.html