Atlanta hate crimes prove anti-Asian violence must be taken seriously

Rachel Yim, Senior Reporter

A year ago this month, the global pandemic landed in the United States. While the COVID-19 cases are finally going down, COVID-19 inspired hate crimes against Asian-Americans have been on the rise ever since the start of the pandemic.

It’s been a year of anti-Asian racism and rising violence. The mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16th, where eight people – six of them Asian-American women, were targeted and killed at businesses owned by Asian-Americans, proves that the country has a serious problem with anti-Asian hate crimes.

After the capture of the suspect, the police noted that the shooter’s violence was a response to a “sexual addiction” and was “not racially motivated.” This explanation expects us to ignore the evidence that’s right in front of our eyes.  

Evidence such as unfair power dynamics of race, gender or class can’t be ignored. I mean, what about the legacy of America’s history of violence in Asia? For many Asian-American women, racism and misogyny are deeply intertwined with their day-to-day lives.

It is heartbreaking and horrifying; but sadly, the violence in Atlanta isn’t a surprise to many. Since the start of the pandemic last spring, Asian-Americans have faced racist violence at a much higher rate than in previous years. According to a report from Stop AAPI Hate, 3,795 anti-Asian discrimination reports were received.

“It’s been a year of living in fear for their lives,” President Joe Biden said.

The brutality toward Asian Americans runs through more than two centuries of American history. From the time the first wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the U.S. as laborers in the 1850s, Asian Americans have always been subject to racist violence.

There is no exception on college campuses. While higher education is overflowing with statements about its commitment to greater diversity and its awareness, students who face discrimination often don’t know how to get out of the situation. 

To recognize different ethnic groups and to better understand each other is a key to a healthy college campus. The bottom line is that institutions of higher education need to step up and stand against bigotry.

In her email to Oakland University community members, OU President Ora Pescovitz emphasized the importance of recognizing the issue and accepting diversity.

“It is important to recognize that students, staff, faculty and alumni are negatively impacted by anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, which are antithetical to our commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, and ensuring the safety and well-being of all,” Pescovitz said. “We stand together with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in solidarity. In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the violence that resulted in the deaths of six women of Asian descent and two others.”

Racism and racial violence are not something we are just told about. It is real, and this kind of violence has always existed in the United States. If in this pivotal moment we all walk away from this issue, this country will not change. 

Fear of going out on a walk, being vilified, scapegoated and wrongfully blamed for the start of the pandemic is a reality that Asians are facing every day. How many more innocent lives will be lost before we recognize the seriousness of racism in this country? 

The best way for us to respond to the mass shooting in Georgia is to take it seriously and work to understand the root of the problem so that another hate crime like this doesn’t occur in the future.

There’s no such thing as quick solutions to racism and racial violence. After all, what President Biden calls “un-American” is deeply ingrained in American history. 

In order to end racism in the U.S., we need to confront centuries of discrimination, oppression and violence and recognize how it manifests today. Without doing so, can America be free of such racial controversy? I don’t think so.