Hate against Asian American community takes a turn for the worst
Across the nation we have heard story after story of members of the Asian American community being violently attacked by unknown persons. These abhorrent acts took a tragic turn this week as assaults rose to slayings. A lone white gunman went on a killing spree at day spas in Cherokee County and Atlanta, which left several innocent victims dead. In what can only be described as a senseless tragedy, our community is once again dealing with the unimaginable.
Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old Woodstock, Georgia man, is accused of entering these businesses and randomly shooting and killing people at will. Eight people, including six Asian Americans, would lose their lives that day following the murders that occurred across two cities and at three different day spas at the hands of a madman. The sole survivor of the shootings was left seriously injured. After leaving the scene, Long would be arrested later in the day in South Georgia in what some have called an attempt to flee the state.
This was fashioned to be a week of positive acknowledgements – the passing of the massive $1.9 trillion-dollar relief plan for Covid-19, needed relief coming to the state and cities, an increase in the overall number of Americans allowed to obtain the vaccine, and a milestone in administering 100 million coronavirus vaccinations into American arms in record time. The week was supposed to be so different and then the terrible moments of Tuesday happened. A planned presidential victory tour quickly became a test of leadership for a young administration.
In the face of this tragedy, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris rose to fulfill their roles as “consolers in chief” to our grieving communities and the country. They came to comfort the saddened Metro Atlanta community, as well as our sorrowful nation. They understood that their visit had a greater purpose, that of helping a community that was reeling from more violence, this time in the Asian American community.
Biden directed that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the dead and expressed “grief and outrage” at the spa attacks as he called for new criminal penalties to protect Asian-Americans and others targeted by a “rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic.” Biden’s statement included the following:
“Jill and I share the nation’s grief and outrage at the horrific killings of eight people, among them six Asian American women, in Georgia on March 16th,”. “While we do not yet know motive, as I said last week, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation. I urge Congress to swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.”
Upon their arrival in Atlanta, Biden and Harris, herself of Asian descent, met with members of the Asian American community and other community leaders regarding the tragedy. Biden also delivered remarks at Emory University and visited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though there has been hesitancy on the part of some to call this a hate crime, saying it was too early to determine if it was racially motivated, some lawmakers have been quick to call it out for just that.
Gov. Brian Kemp called for justice saying “Every Georgian, including the AAPI community, deserve to be safe and secure in our state,”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described the shootings as targeted and tragic saying “A crime against any community is a crime against us all.”
Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au, the first East Asian state senator, has long been concerned about the safety of Asian Americans in Georgia and told “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam that she sees this incident in the broader context of an ongoing spike of discrimination against Asian Americans related to misinformation about the coronavirus and described this event as another in a long history of violence against people of Asian descent in this country. Au believes that increasing awareness is the first step to begin to address this prejudice, and then to gather more data to better measure the problem.
Authorities identified the deceased victims At Young’s Asians Massage Parlor in Cherokee County as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Yan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, survived but is seriously injured.
The four victims at two locations on Piedmont Road (Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa) have been identified as Soon C. Park, 74; Hyun J. Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong A. Yue, 63. Family members identified Grant by her maiden name, Hyun Jung Kim.
As various law enforcement continue to investigate the deadly shootings, they are also investigating whether the killings were hate crimes. Long remains in jail after waiving his right to an initial hearing in Cherokee County Magistrate Court.
As each day passes, our grief-stricken community is struggling to understand the motives behind these senseless killings. Over the past year we have witnessed great moments in our community in which we can be proud, but here we are witnessing sorrow thanks to random gun violence which breaks our hearts. We are seeing up close how hate and violence against the Asian American community could go from bad to horrific and why it must stop.