After a shooting in Atlanta left six women of Asian descent dead, outcry for ending hate towards Asian Americans gains national attention


Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit social organization that reports hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, has reported nearly 3,800 racially motivated attacks, verbal and physical, in this past year alone. 

The same report shows that women are more than twice as likely as men to experience these attacks and that businesses are the primary site of discrimination at 35.4 percent, followed by public streets and online platforms. 

A similar study conducted by California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism shows that while hate crimes fell overall by 7 percent in 2020, those targeting Asian Americans increased by 150 percent.

The most recent incident in the wave of attacks occurred Tuesday night when shootings at three Atlanta massage parlors killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The suspect who was ultimately caught was identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long of Woodstock, Georgia. 

Long told police that the cause of the shootings was a way to relieve his sexual addiction, but given the circumstances, authorities are currently investigating the case to determine if the shootings constitute a hate crime, despite claims from Long himself suggesting otherwise. 

The incident was quickly met with outrage on social media from members and supporters of the Asian community, several of whom also condemned white supremacy and accused former President Donald Trump of fanning this surge in attacks by repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” 

Asian American students at Mason have expressed outrage and fears of racist attacks. 

“The shooting is by all means a hate crime,” said Steven Agustin, senior student and Kapamilya director of Mason’s Filipino Cultural Association. “Ever since Trump and his supporters blamed China for the pandemic, all Asian ethnic groups have been targeted. I fear for my life every day and that I’m going to be the next target, but I know the Asian American community is strong and that we’ll get through this.” 

Government and international relations freshman Sophia Nguyen explained how she works at a Korean bakery and bubble tea shop which her parents founded, and her manager had called her asking how to increase security within the restaurant due to the increasing violence against Asian Americans.

“We didn’t want this happening to my parents, you know, they immigrated here to start a cafe. And it really hurts them. It really hurt me too. And also my mom and my grandma own an alteration shop so obviously they were very much shaken by the mood,” Nguyen said. “And I remember telling my parents like maybe we need to buy self defense for us, and they said our tradition tells us we can’t do that. And while I respect our traditions and morals, now is the time to defend ourselves.”

Nguyen describes how the police officer who said the suspect was having a “bad day” angered her because he took away the lives of innocent people, who had a family and a whole future ahead of them.

“With everything that is going on, there is always more to keep doing, especially since this is deeply rooted in the political system and bureaucracy,” Nguyen said. “There is always going to be a lot more that needs to be done.”

Though there have been no reported incidents on any of Mason’s campuses as of yet, Rose Pascarell, vice president for University Life at Mason, sent an email to all students on March 9 to address the increase in these hate crimes across the country. 

She wrote in the email that the school “denounce[s] anti-Asian rhetoric and lies that falsely attribute blame for COVID-19” and encourages students to utilize their resources, including a statement by the Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment. 

On March 18, two days after the shooting, President Gregory Washington sent an email to students where he denounced the mass murder in Atlanta and the increase in violence nationwide that have “shaken the nation’s Asian communities to their cores.” 

He delivered a message of solidarity to the Asian communities at Mason, and wrote, “Mason is your home, and you are loved and supported here. Your safety and sense of belonging are of utmost importance to everyone. As always, our personnel are on watch to ensure your security and wellbeing, so you can resume what you came here to do: to simply learn, live, and grow to your fullest potential.”

The shooting also drew reactions from political leaders like President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday morning, though they acknowledged the ambiguity surrounding the shooter’s motivation and are reserving comments for when this information is acquired. 

Biden, who previously condemned the attacks against the Asian American community and called the attacks “un-American” in his first presidential speech, said in a statement, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation” and urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would “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.”

Harris added to Biden’s comment by calling for support of the Asian American community amid the increase in violence. 

“We stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people,” she said in a statement. “Knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate.”

The names of the victims have been released by Atlanta officials, as follows. GoFundMe links have been attached and will be updated accordingly.

Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, GoFundMe

Hyun Jung Grant, 51, GoFundMe

Xiaojie Tan, 49

Suncha Kim, 69, GoFundMe

Soon Chung Park, 74 

Yong Yue, 63, GoFundMe

Paul Andre Michels, 54, GoFundMe

Daoyou Feng, 44

(Injured) Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, GoFundMe