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What you need to know about the Atlanta Shootings and #StopAsianHate Movement

On March 16, eight people, including six Asian women, were killed in a series of shootings at three Atlanta massage parlours. At the time this was published, only the names of those killed in the first attack have been released. These include Xiaojie Tang, 49, Daoyou Fueng (44), Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez (33) and Paul Andre Michels (54) Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, was charged with murder and assault the day following. Although police have not yet labelled the shootings a hate crime, they have said that Long may have had a “sexual addiction” and was targeting places of “temptation.”

For Asian-Canadians and Asian-American communities, however, there is no other way to describe the latest attack in a year that has seen anti-Asian hate crimes rise dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the details and ways you can help.

What has happened to anti-Asian racism?

COVID-19 was a household name that was popularized almost exactly one year ago. It was called “China’s fault” by then-U.S. President Donald Trump. There have been many incidents racially charged both in the west as well as online since then.

According to an October 2020 report by the Anti-Defamation League, there was an 85 percent increase in anti-Asian rhetoric and conspiracy theories on Twitter shortly after Trump used those terms during the first presidential debate in the fall.

In Canada, Fight COVID Racism has recorded over 931 incidents of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia from March 17, 2020 to present. In Vancouver, hate crimes increased by 97 percent while anti-Asian hate crimes specifically went up a staggering 717 percent last year. During the same period, Ottawa‘s hate crimes rose by 57 percent. Montreal reported a total of 30 anti-Asian hate crimes and racist acts between March and December of last year, while only six were recorded in 2019. Additionally, according to Project 1907, Canada has more reports of anti-Asian racism per Asian capita than the United States.

In the U.S., Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, released research on March 16 revealing that nearly 3,800 incidents were reported from March 2020 to February 2021. Notably, 68% of reports were made by women, compared with 29% for men. People 60 years and older received 6.2 percent. There has been an increase of attacks on elderly Asian Americans in America. More than 20 cases were reported in Northern California in the last month.

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What does #StopAsianHate actually mean?

The hashtag #StopAsianHate was created after the news of the shootings at Atlanta spread. Many activists hope that the viral movement will draw attention to racism that existed long before the pandemic, and that is still very common in the U.S.

Canadians are also affected. Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of sociology at University of Toronto, is one of the victims. He told FLARE: “I hope this will wake people from multicultural mythmaking, where Canadians fall in love with the narrative that this nation is open and tolerant.”

The goal is to increase conversation so others can see how deep this history runs, Lee says “vicarious trauma”.

“Many people are concerned that this is reopening traumatizing wounds Asian people have suffered in various parts of the globe. Lee says it brings back memories of microaggressions that we face every day, overt racism, violence, and it reminds us of racism. Lee was born just 30 minutes from the site of the shootings. Lee says it was particularly difficult to learn that some victims were Korean females. “It reminds me of all the things that we sometimes overlook due to racism against Asians narratives.”

He says a key reason why anti-Asian racism can sometimes go unnoticed is because of the model minority myth, which suggests that some Asians have, in Lee’s words, “transcended the problems and ills” that continue to affect other racial minority groups. In this sense, #StopAsianHate offers a platform where people can share their experiences with racism as well as the scars they have left.

Madelyn Chung, a Toronto-based writer, psychotherapist, founder of the RepresentASIAN Project and frequent FLARE contributor, says she feels numb as she continues to process the news and is reminded of her own experiences with racism.

“One time, I went into a bar and saw a man wearing a shirt that said “I love Asians”. His friends pushed me over when I got in and asked me to take his photo as a token,” she recalls, an unease still ringing her voice. She grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood. She has been reflecting on her life and feels that she can’t talk about it.

“If I did, my family and friends would consider me too sensitive. Chung speaks out on March 16th about the murders at spa workers. “While you wait for the media use the rhetoric and may or not accurately, and the excuses made to this man, This is often true when the perpetrators of these violent acts are white. My timeline is stuffed full of his face.

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Are the shootings in Atlanta racist?

Many are confused about the motives behind these shootings. Police claim it is too early for it to be called a hate crime, while Long claims it wasn’t racially motivated. Many believe that the killer was racist and they have been sharing their thoughts via the #StopAsianHate hashtag.

Georgia state representative Bee Nguyen said in a statement that those who were killed appear to be victims of the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia.” In other words, context is important.

Lee states that people often feel uncomfortable being called racist, even though they are openly racially inclined. It is clear that this is an act of white supremacy or an incel. While labels are convenient, many of these ideas are interwoven. We must take his words with a grain of salt and realize that this type is complex and these identities intersect.”

Long may be right to believe his crimes were motivated by racism, but it doesn’t mean he has to be racist in order to make it true.

This tragedy could be the catalyst to change.

When it comes to seeing actual systemic and societal change from this and last year’s racial reckonings–which includes the Black Lives Matter movement–a few key things need to happen. Education is the most important thing.

Lee claims that he did not learn anything about the Asian civil rights movement or the major historical events that led to it as a child growing up in the U.S. The same applies for young Canadians.

He said, “There are so many things we need to do and it all begins with education.” “In the interim it’s about informing people on how they can help as a bystander with respect to racially motivated acts.”

Chung states, “The best thing I can do at the moment is to educate myself.” We don’t know anything about the Chinese Exclusion Act or the head tax in Canada’s schools. We are taught with a narrow lens, which is also true of Indigenous and Black communities.

She encourages people use the internet to not just enlighten, but also to listen, support, and amplify others sharing their experiences right now.

Chung says that it is important that you realize you are not alone, that this isn’t okay, that it doesn’t have to be something you have to deal with as a woman or person of color, and that she has learned a lot through her experiences that it is important that you speak up. “I feel guilty for feeling the same about these attacks. “Am I speaking loudly? Am I being overly sensitive? These feelings are okay?

#StopAsianHate believes that now is not the time for support, but to take action. This is more than posting a black square on Instagram. It’s about creating spaces for diversity in workplaces, collecting data on race and minorities during the pandemic and using a diverse lens when you consume media.

Next:What’s Systemic Racism?

How can you help?

Allyship can be defined by intervening as a witness or learning about anti-Asian racism.

Butterfly SW, a Toronto-based support group for Asian and Migrant sex workers, and massage parlour workers is available here. You can also contribute to Maggie’s Toronto Sex Worker Action Project