It has been a year since the Covid-19 pandemic first initiated increases in hatred toward Asian communities and individuals in our country and others. Over 3,800 incidents have been reported at stopaapihate.org, ranging from verbal harassment and workplace discrimination to violent assaults, including the March 16 mass shooting in Atlanta.
We wish we could say we are shocked, in disbelief that this could have happened, and yet, it is not surprising at all. There is so much that can be written about what has happened — it leaves me paralyzed with where to start.
- The culmination of a year of violence toward Asians in a mass-casualty shooting left eight people dead and one wounded, with six of the victims being Asian. And yet the fear that this is just another point in what may continue to be an ongoing stream of racism levied against our communities.
- How this fits into a pattern of racism throughout our history against Asian, Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities.
- The intersection of racism and misogyny in how the murderer exploited Asian women to feed his so-called sex addiction and then blamed them for what he saw as his shortcomings and punishing them with their deaths.
- The societal stereotypes and fetishization of Asian women, all as part of the fundamental dehumanization that racism serves to promote.
- The socioeconomic dynamics of Asian service workers during the pandemic, interacting in close contact with countless clients when social distancing is the safest protection from infection.
- The police humanizing the murderer, saying that this was just a case of someone having a bad day … juxtaposed with highlighting the victims as possibly sex industry workers, as if to make their deaths less consequential or meaningful.
- The quickness of the police to dismiss the possibility that this was racially based because the perpetrator said it wasn’t.
- FBI Director Christopher Wray similarly sandwiching comments that the FBI is in a supportive role to the local police who are leading the investigation around the assertion that the motive does not appear to be racially motivated.
- The possible role that the perpetrator’s evangelical Christian background might have played in radicalizing his views and regretfully the intersection of conservative Christian theology and white supremacy.
- The failure of gun laws that allowed the murderer to purchase the gun on the same day he would use it to end the lives of eight people.
- The very fact that the use of a firearm enabled this to be a mass murder.
- A pattern of extremist and hate-based mass murders including Tree of Life Synagogue, Pulse nightclub, Oak Creek, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
- The juxtaposition of this incident of gun violence with increasing gun ownership amongst Asians seeking to protect themselves from this pandemic of hate.
There are many more narratives that could be applied to this, but at this time, perhaps the most important thing to say are the names of the victims:
Elcias Hernandez Ortiz, who survived and remains in the hospital (as of press time)
Hyun Jung Grant
Paul Andre Michels
Soon C. Park
Delaina Ashley Yaun
Yong A. Yue
The lone survivor and those whose lives ended much too early are now part of these other narratives that threaten to steal their personhood, their individuality in the same way that the pandemic of anti-Asian racism has done for 3,800 others.
These are not statistics, these are our neighbors, classmates, family members and friends. And they, and we, all deserve better.
When will enough be enough?
When will this end?
David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.