Letter to the Editor: AAPI hate must stop

On March 16, 2021, a 21-year-old white gunman fired in multiple spas in Atlanta, Georgia, killing eight people, out of which six were Asian American women. Since the beginning of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans increased by 1900%, with almost 3,800 cases reported to the Stop Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Hate organization alone. However, not until the recent shooting in Atlanta were xenophobic acts in the past year highlighted in the media. Even the initial report for the Atlanta shooting by the police and by news services such as The Washington Post failed to state explicitly that the act of violence was racially motivated, blurring and downplaying the dangers AAPI community members face; it was reported that the gunman was “having a bad day,” downplaying the gunman’s racist intentions. This narrative is falsely told over and over again.

The media and police’s failure to take proper and timely action, for both the Atlanta shooting and for past AAPI hate crimes, shows the continuation of American society’s ignorance.

These recent events have instilled into many AAPI community members growing concerns and fear for their own safety and that of their loved ones, especially those who are older and more vulnerable to such attacks. Considering the sharp increase in violence and the severe lack of awareness about this issue, many AAPI members are left feeling frustrated and helpless. These feelings have taken a toll on the mental health of many individuals.

In the Asian American Student Association, members have expressed these feelings of fear, insecurity, and frustration. Why did the broader community take so long to simply notice this racially motivated violence? Even when they realized the inherent and deeply rooted racist mindset of the society, why did they fail to respond earnestly and appropriately? Why did it take a shooting for the media to pay attention or for people to take a stand against these xenophobic acts?

In response to the hate crimes, there are ways the school can help its AAPI community members and combat racial violence. Simply checking in on how they are doing will make them feel supported and know there are so many friends, teachers, and other community members they can talk to, and, if they want, converse with frankly so they can express thoughts and feelings that may help alleviate their concerns. We should all spread awareness and ignite conversations in the communities we are a part of or post on social media to make as many people as possible aware of the injustices and racism Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) groups face.

Attending local protests and vigils are ways to not only show solidarity with the AAPI community but also to show respect and grief toward the victims. Supporting Asian businesses, whether by buying groceries from Asian supermarkets or getting your hair or nails done at Asian salons, will help the AAPI community feel supported. At school, students should have safe spaces and open discussions, and teachers should incorporate more discussions on racial dynamics in their classes.