On the morning of March 17, we woke up to horror; headlines reading along the lines of “Eight Dead in Atlanta Shooting” flooded the media. More information began to surface in the following hours, and a striking pattern appeared within media coverage — a refusal to label it a hate crime.
Invalidation is not only hurtful to millions of Asian-American Pacific Islanders, but also profoundly disappointing.
The facts: A white man shot and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at three spas in Atlanta, about 30 miles from each other. He told police he had a “sex addiction,” and that the spas were a “temptation … that he wanted to eliminate,” but that his actions weren’t racially motivated.
What followed was an outpouring of support: empathy for victims, fear for loved ones who may be targeted, outrage at yet another racially motivated hate crime and demands for justice. Millions united across the world in hopes of shedding light to the perpetual challenges that the Black Indigenous People of Color community faces in America.
Unfortunately, a recurring reaction was one lacking surprise; in this year alone, students have lost count of the number of school days spent discussing and debriefing tragedy.
This was not just another shooting, nor a standalone crime. This attack did not come out of the blue; anti-Asian hate has skyrocketed over the past year, aided by our former president’s use of inaccurate and xenophobic terminology when referring to the pandemic as “Kung Flu” or “Chinavirus.”
Over the past year, we have witnessed countless verbal and physical assaults on Asian communities across the nation, and we watched hate spiral into a mass shooting.
Racism against Asian-Americans is deeply rooted in American history. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prevented people from China from immigrating to the U.S. This piece of legislation specifically targeted people of Chinese descent.
It is pivotal that we acknowledge our history and keep the conversation going instead of taking action only after the worst has happened.
Our choice as a country to speak up only after an extreme act of hate reflects both the performative nature of activism and the normalization of racism in America; it is disgusting that it takes millions fraught with fear for over a year and eight lives to be lost for us to come together and protest.
Reports of violence and death in the media should not be a prerequisite to public empathy or progress in America. Before more people die in mass shootings, before more people feel too scared to leave their house alone, before another attack, we must fix our biased legal systems and educate ourselves. We must be proactive rather than reactive. We should be actively against anti-Asian hate.
Upon the initial reaction, some wondered how the South and Newton communities would respond. This school year, South has put a noticeable focus on incorporating anti-racism into the curriculum, but it is disappointing that it took this long.
As a school, we must be sure that anti-racist education is mandatory. We cannot place more pressure on our BIPOC community as we address and learn about microaggressions and biases. When we say we will take action, we must follow through.
Ideally, we would have addressed the systemic racism and inequities that pervade our society before lives are lost and people face injustice, as social media support only ever comes after it is too late. Realistically, racism is so ingrained into the systems of power in the United States that it will take a lot of work to even get back to square one, where everyone is on an equal playing field. We must utilize the powerful emotions of fear and anger and outrage that we feel at this moment to push for effective change.
As the school newspaper, our priority is to report the unbiased truth, no matter how big or small the narrative. We have a responsibility to report the truth, and there are no nuances when it comes to calling out hate crimes. To not directly name the crime is to imply the absence of one.
The bigger question here is how we describe hate crimes, and we must keep in mind that the way we do reflects on our society’s values and the progress we have or haven’t made.
Emotions are effective in making change. We must streamline our grief and our anger towards creating a better future and a more just society. Instead of simply posting a black square or liking an Instagram post, educate yourself and your friends and have a conversation with people you disagree with. Awareness is important, but we must actively include and normalize different voices and learning about diverse cultures. We must make sure everyone gets the full, unbiased truth, and that begins with naming injustice.