A “really bad” day
March 17th was a very dark day for me and many others in the Asian community. A man murdered 8 people including 6 Asian women near Atlanta, in an act of violence that was racially motivated.
A whole slew of emotions raced through me throughout the day. The sadness from the loss of innocent women who very easily could’ve been my mother, my sister, or my relative. The rage I felt at the police for downplaying the heinousness of the murderer’s crimes, stating that he’d simply had a “really bad day” and was “at the end of his rope.” It seemed to absolve the murderer of blame and racism by pinning it on his mental health and “sexual addiction.”
I’ve never felt so strikingly alone as when I reached out to friends later that day, telling them I wasn’t in a good emotional state because of the news in Atlanta. “What happened in Atlanta?” they replied. Their lack of awareness wasn’t their fault. Our community’s loss simply wasn’t being highlighted by large media outlets. On the Wall Street Journal, I had to scroll halfway down to see a tiny headline titled “Atlanta Shooting Suspect Said to Target Massage Parlors,” whereas I felt “Atlanta Spa Murders Blatantly target Asians” ought to have been emblazoned across the front page.
I kept asking myself how do people not know about this, why is no one talking about this at work, why does no one care about this, and how can we just act like this is normal?!?! It felt so brutally isolating like no one cared about me nor my community. For months, we’ve been speaking out about violence against Asian Americans. How many more articles and videos do I need to see of Asian elders — people who are my Grandma’s age being assaulted and murdered — before anything is actually done.
After I heard the news, I called my family to see how they were holding up and to tell them I loved them. The emotion that stood out in the conversation was fear. My mom in all her caring ways, warned me to stop going to Chinatown. She wanted me to stop going to the place that made me feel safe, the place that elicited warm memories of my childhood, and the place that ultimately reminded me of her. The fear of her son being the next person gunned down or assaulted outside a Chinese restaurant was too palpable. For me, it was all so overwhelming and I started sobbing after I got off the call.
However, like any good son, I blatantly ignored her warnings and marched my ass right over to Chinatown and Little Saigon. I couldn’t live in fear, and I felt like I had to do something, even something as small as buying Congee from a Cantonese-owned restaurant. Though small, it was an act of solidarity and personal comfort.
My experience is a microcosm of what many in the Asian community have faced in the aftermath of this horrible act of violence. It made me question who and what I really trust. The goal of this writing isn’t to call out or shame anyone but rather to create empathy and convey how events like these can profoundly affect individuals in a community.
The attack that we saw was an extreme example of the long history of Anti-Asian violence and discrimination in the U.S which has been exacerbated by COVID-19. This issue is part of a much larger conversation surrounding racism in America. Now is the time where allyship can be extremely powerful. Doing something as simple as checking in on your Asian friends can truly go a long way. Conversations, visibility, and further education about these issues and the Asian-American experience, as well as other marginalized communities, should continue. To learn more about allyship to the Asian community, please see the resources below.
Please honor the victims Delaina Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; Daoyou Feng, 44; Soon C. Park, 74; Hyun J. Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong A. Yue, 63. If you’d like to help or donate please see the resources below.