On March 16 at around 5 p.m., a 21-year-old white man named Robert Aaron Long went on a shooting spree in Atlanta, Ga. He went to three different spa locations, murdering eight people who were all of Asian descent.
Long has been arrested and is currently being held without bail. He has a history of sex addiction and has spent time receiving therapy. He has tried to deflect blame by claiming that his addiction is why he committed this heinous crime and that he wanted to get rid of his temptations.
The man has been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. There has been public uproar after Capt. Jay Baker, from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, referred to his actions as him having a “really bad day,” which seemed to be a poor attempt to gain sympathy for the suspect. Baker has been removed from his position as a spokesperson on this case. No excuses should be made for terrorists who commit acts of racial violence. The police are still saying that Long’s motives are unclear, but it is obvious that it was a racial and sexist attack.
Trump repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese Virus” and the “Kung Flu” during his public appearances, even though the World Health Organization discouraged using those phrases because of the racist connotations. Ironically it was when Trump sent out a tweet calling COVID-19 “the Chinese Virus” on March 16, 2020, which then directly led to an increase in anti-Asian hate speech across Twitter. Exactly a year later, a man who has previously posted anti-Asian sentiments on Facebook goes on a murderous rampage resulting in the tragic and senseless death of eight Asian Americans.
Asian Americans have had to deal with targeted racial harassment since they started to immigrate to the U.S. during the California Gold Rush, notably when the Chinese Exclusion Act became federal law in 1882. Asian Americans have been using the hashtag #StopAsianHate across several social media platforms to spread awareness about the rise of discrimination and violence they have been encountering since this past year. The Pew Research Center survey shows that three in 10 Asian Americans reported racial jokes or slurs since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Stop AAPI Hate National Report is compiled of the incidents reported to the Center, but only represent a portion of all the incidents that have taken place. (AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander.) The report that it recently published includes 3,795 cases dating from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021.These cases range from verbal harassment, online harassment, to shunning, physical assault and civil rights violations. A national trend revealed that Asian women were targeted more often and that Asian-owned businesses, such as nail salons and spas, were the primary site of discrimination.
President Joe Biden released an official statement pushing for Congress to approve the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Bill in order to “expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian American communities.” He stated that he condemns gender-based anti-Asian violence and that he is working with the Department of Justice to stop xenophobia, racism and anti-Asian bias. Biden concluded with this statement: “Every person in our nation deserves to live their lives with safety, dignity and respect.”