In separate incidents of shooting on March 16, in suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia in the US, eight people lost their lives, including six women of Asian-American descent. The shootings took place in Atlanta-area spas. After a brief man-hunt, the police arrested 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long who admitted he was responsible. He, reportedly, intended to proceed to Florida to carry out additional shootings.
The Atlanta Police Chief has said that it is too early to determine if these incidents were hate crimes and said that he has a “sexual addiction” and that the spas were “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” but at the same time did not debunk suspicion of a racially motivated attack.
Meanwhile, sentiments across the country are running amok, and the Asian community in the US is living in fear. Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum was quoted by The Washington Post as saying, “The reality is this tragedy is impacting the Asian American community in ways it’s not in the other communities in Atlanta right now. If you step back a little bit, pull back the curtains a bit, and really understand the history of how this country has perceived and treated Asian American women, it won’t be a surprise to come to the conclusion that there was some racialized motivation behind what happened yesterday.”
President Joe Biden also expressed his concerns over the shootings as he has made a mention of racial discrimination against Asian Americans during his first presidential address after coming to power. “I’m very concerned, because as you know, I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple months, and I think it is very, very troubling. I am making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer. I’m waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department,” Biden said.
Even if the suspect while admitting to the shootings did not mention racial bias as his motive but simply a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate, the targets of his crime paint a different picture.
As per The Washington Post, Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au (D) said that regardless of what authorities determine to be the motive “it is taking place in a landscape where Asian-Americans are increasingly terrified and fearful for their lives and their safety because of these escalating threats against our people.” Further, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) blamed Former President Donal Trump for repeatedly calling Covid-19 “China virus” or “Wuhan Virus” for “stoking the flames of xenophobia against Asian Americans”. She asserted that Trump and his followers doubled down on the rhetoric and “what we saw yesterday is the result of that.”
A report recently released by Stop AAPI Hate suggests that since the beginning of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asian-Americans were on the rise reporting nearly 3,800 such incidents of racial attacks in all 50 states. AAPI stands for Asian American Pacific Islanders. The study found that 68% of the racial abuse was verbal or involved name-calling while 11.1% was physical.