Understanding the Attacks on the Asian American Community

On Tuesday, March 16, eight people were shot and killed in Atlanta, Georgia—six of the victims were women of Asian American descent. According to most news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, and BBC News, the attacks were not racially motivated. However, it is important for the public to recognize that most of the information in a news story comes from police reports. According to BBC News, police officials have not confirmed whether the attacker had racist intentions. However, we know that this attack was on Asian American women and Asian-led businesses, so let’s call it what it is: a hate crime. By definition, a hate crime is one that involves violence and is “motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds.” The attack in Atlanta is blatant anti-Asian violence and misogyny.

According to The Washington Post, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker told reporters that the White man who shot and killed innocent people was having a “bad day.” While everyone has a bad day once in a while, most people do not take the lives of others because of it. Baker’s language is harmful because it sends the message that the crime is excusable because of an off day or a bad mood. Baker also claimed the attack was not racist in nature.

However, according to Huffpost, it was found that Baker himself was engaging in racist behavior on Facebook by promoting a t-shirt that says “COVID-19” written in the same font as the logo for Corona beer. “Imported virus from Chy-na” was written under the logo. While prejudice against Asian Americans has always existed, there has been a rise in discrimination and blatant racism toward Asian Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the virus originated in Wuhan, China, former President Donald Trump referred to coronavirus as the “China virus,” which gave rise to new acts of prejudice against Chinese individuals. According to CNN, Trump denied that the term was racist, but the organization Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate released a report that says otherwise.

According to the Stop AAPI Hate 2020-2021 National Report, 68.1% of the 3,795 incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate were verbal harassment, and 11.1% were physical assaults. The report also states that women reported experiences of hatred, prejudice, and discrimination 2.3 times more than men. Additionally, according to the Pew Research Center, four of ten adults in the United States noticed that it “has become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began.” Also, it is important to recognize that Americans of all different Asian ethnicities and backgrounds are experiencing targeted hatred. While Trump may not have believed the term “China virus” was a threat to the safety of Asian Americans, the number of Asian American lives lost and the number of hate incidents reported prove just how damaging the language can be.

Violence against Asian individuals cannot be swept under the rug over a bad day or a bad year. We the people must hold others accountable for racist behaviors, and we must also show support to the Asian American community. This is not a time to remain silent.

To report an incident of hate, go to Stop AAPI Hate’s website.