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Stop Asian hate

| Thursday, March 25, 2021

Exactly one month ago, I wrote a column on the rise in anti-Asian attacks in the U.S. amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its ties to the larger issue of discrimination against Asian Americans, which has existed long before this virus began to spread. 

One month later, it’s disheartening to write about the horrific shootings at three Atlanta-area spas which occurred on March 16 and which killed eight people — six of the victims being Asian women. While official investigative reports have not yet declared an exact motive behind this atrocity, we shouldn’t ignore or dismiss the fact that the majority of the people killed were Asian women. And the fact that this comes amidst a nearly 150% increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. And the fact that the 21-year-old man behind these shootings “lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation” — namely, massage parlors in which Asian women worked.  

This tragedy points to a convergence of multiple issues in our society which are prominent and must be addressed.  

First, we shouldn’t try to get around the fact that this shooting happened at a time when hate, discrimination and violence against Asian Americans has been on the rise over the past year. As I wrote in another column, there were more than 2,800 reported attacks between March 19, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020. A more recent and updated national report by Stop AAPI Hate includes 3,795 incidents from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021 — meaning just in the first two months of 2021, there have been around 1,000 reported incidents of hate and violence against Asians. According to this data, Asian American people, particularly the elderly, have been shoved, punched, robbed, verbally assaulted, told to “go back to China” and to “stop bringing that Chinese virus over here,” spat on, coughed on and so much more. This comes after a year of the coronavirus being nicknamed and constantly referred to as the “China virus” by some political leaders and news networks. Again, the tragedy at the Atlanta spas has not yet been officially tied to racial motives, but, in context, it’s not hard to see why it has stirred so much fear and anger among the AAPI community. 

I also found it disturbing that the gunman denied his attacks were racially motivated but rather that he has a “sex addiction” and saw locations such as the massage parlors which he attacked as “temptation[s] … that he wanted to eliminate.” In a way, this reminded me of when people use the excuse, “she was wearing a short skirt,” to justify assaulting women. It seems to shift someone’s personal issues and blame onto the people who are the victims and who actually end up being harmed or, in this case, killed. Saying he has an “addiction” makes it sound like he warrants sympathy or understanding for what he did. The fact that the shooter saw these women — who were simply doing their jobs as spa workers — as “temptations” rather than actual people worthy of respect and dignity and who had families, friends and loved ones is dehumanizing and disturbing. Not to mention, Asian women have reported hate incidents almost three times more than Asian men. This, combined with the long history of the hypersexualization and stereotypes of Asian women makes me think it’s difficult to separate race from whatever the shooter’s conscious motives were behind his disgusting act. There is a deeper issue here which conjoins race and gender. 

Maybe we should pay more attention to and listen to what Asian women and Asian people have to say. Asian Americans are too often overlooked, ignored and seen as foreign in a country which many sacrificed so much to come to in pursuit for a better life for themselves and their families. 

I decided to write a second column on this spike in anti-Asian American hate and the horrifying tragedy which occurred in Atlanta because it’s been affecting me on a personal level. The Asian American experience — from the more subtle things like feeling “too Asian” to be seen as fully American while also feeling “too American” to feel “Asian enough” when I visit my parent’s home country, to repressing my Asian heritage by refusing to speak Japanese when I was younger in an effort to “fit in,” to the sinking feeling of watching this rise in hate crimes against Asians — has not really been talked about much in the political or social sphere until recently. As I watched the news from Atlanta and texted my family and loved ones back home, I felt worried, angry and heartbroken for the families and all those impacted. 

I encourage anyone who is reading this column to remember the names of and take the time to learn about the eight victims: Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng. I hope America works to become a nation which protects and honors all of the people who make up its diversity rather than allow us to be torn apart.

Megumi Tamura is a freshman in the Gateway Program. She is originally from Ridgewood, New Jersey and enjoys going to museums, watching political debates and eating Jersey bagels. She can be reached at [email protected] or @megtamura on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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