Last week, six Asian women and two other people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a spa. The suspect, a 21-year-old white male, has since pleaded guilty to the shooting and is charged with multiple counts of murder and possession of a firearm.
Requests to investigate hate crime allegations, as well as the outrage, grief, and fear among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have only increased since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, given the increasing number of incidents targeting Asian communities in the United States. But lawmakers and public figures say racism against Asian Americans is nothing new.
The recent attacks have shaken a deeply divided nation, which is under constant pressure to talk about the racism and inequality that plague its increasingly diverse populations.
Asian Americans are the target of this kind of hatred, and we need to understand that just because they have an image of economic success, good education or peace of mind does not mean they are seen or accepted as full-fledged Americans, said Pawan Dhingra, a professor of American studies at Amherst College who specializes in Asian American studies.
Last year, Asian Americans were verbally and physically attacked for fearing the coronavirus and after former President Donald Trump repeatedly called Covid-19 a Chinese virus or Kung flu. The violence ranged from a cardiologist in a grocery store who nearly had his mask ripped off to an 84-year-old man from Thailand who died after being pushed to the ground during a morning walk.
When you see the faces of the victims of the Spa shooting in Atlanta, you feel the fear beyond the Peach State, in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities as well.
It’s very hard to describe the feeling of grief, even when it comes to people you’ve never known, never heard of or never had contact with, said Ian, a 24-year-old writer living in New York. Psychologically it upsets you when you hear about people being shot because of their looks, because they look like my grandmother, because they look like my mother.
Yang, who says he has often been the target of racist remarks, is one of more than 300 Asian Americans who have shared their stories with CNN.
CNN is only using the names to protect them and prevent reprisals in their communities.
Nearly a week after the Atlanta shootings, the anti-Asian hate movement continues to gain momentum with protests in several cities, including Denver, New York and San Francisco. For Cynthia Choi, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, the country is in a period of awareness.
There is no denying that race and gender are factors in this tragedy, Choi said.
Over the past week, many lawmakers, experts and activists have discussed the connection between anti-Asian sentiment, the riots at the Capitol and the current fight for voting rights.
In many parts of the country, some people want a stricter definition of who belongs and what their rights are, Dhingra said.
Capitol rebels hated the color of our skin, says a black officer.
When rioters entered the Capitol in January, some carried Confederate flags and displayed signs and symbols of racist, white supremacist and extremist groups. A black U.S. Capitol Police officer has stated that he and his black colleagues on Capitol Hill have been the victims of racist taunts.
The struggle of the black officers was different because, as I said, not only were we fighting people who hated what we stood for, we were fighting the color of our skin, Harry Dunn said last week in an interview with Don Lemon on CNN. It’s just a fact, and they used those words to prove it, they showed that they hate us, and they hate the color of our skin.
The attack on the 6th. The month of January, in which five people were killed and more than 100 police officers were injured, prompted black police officers to reflect on their experiences.
Once I had time to sit down and take stock, it was so overwhelming: we’re giving up so much and putting our lives on the line to protect and preserve democracy, and we’re being made out to be racists and traitors and every other weapon these people can use because they’re angry about something, he said.
Several lawmakers called the rioters white supremacists in the days and weeks after the riots.
Let’s be clear, this is a domestic terrorist attack by violent mobs of white supremacists, armed and mostly trained in police and military tactics, who have come to overturn an election in which their candidate Trump lost, said Joyce Beatty, an Ohio lawmaker and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, at a hearing in January.
A wave of voice restrictions similar to the Jim Crow era
In recent weeks, people across the country have been fighting for the right to vote. Republicans are pushing for restrictions that Democrats and their supporters say will have a major impact on people of color.
According to calculations by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, lawmakers in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions. Some of the bills come from Florida, Arizona and Georgia, which were contested states in 2020 and will host races for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
The proposed measures could limit Sunday voting and the number of ballot boxes, ban absentee voting without justification, ban automatic voter registration, and ban volunteers from serving free food and drink to people waiting in line at polling stations.
Voting rights advocates said the measures were a direct attack on black voters, who went to the polls in unprecedented numbers for the presidential election.
Georgia lawmakers have said in recent days that they plan to keep early voting on Sunday as part of an overall package on voting that a House committee will consider this week. The previous bill only provided for an optional election day on Sunday.
For Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voter Support Foundation, this law is nothing more than voter suppression.
The recent changes are nothing more than a little makeup and cologne for Jim Crow, Albright said.
Voting rights advocates have criticized the cap as an attack on Souls of the Polls, programs that help increase turnout among members of the black community, a key Democratic voter group. And CNN’s analysis of voting patterns in the November general election found that the measure eliminated days on which a disproportionate number of black voters voted.
Stacey Abrams, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist, took down the laws of states across the country and compared Georgia’s efforts to a Jim Crow lookalike in a suit and tie.
The only connection we can find is that more people of color voted, and that has changed the outcome of the election in a way that Republicans don’t like, Abrams told CNN.
Voting rights suppression, the unequal distribution of the Covid 19 vaccine, the increase in the number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and anti-Asian attacks are some of the issues that people of color in America face constantly.
The country may have been the epicenter of racist calculations last summer, but a series of recent events show that these discussions are far from over.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten and Kelly Mena contributed to this report.