Why Georgia attack spurs fears in Asian
By Christine Fernando and Terry Tang
The Associated Press
March 17, 2021
To report an AAPI hate crime, go to
CHICAGO (AP) — The shootings at three Georgia massage parlors
and spas that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian
descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against
Asian Americans since the coronavirus first entered the United
As details emerge, many members of the Asian-American
community see the Georgia killings as a haunting reminder of
harassment and assaults that have been occurring from coast to
WHAT HAPPENED IN ATLANTA?
Five people were shot Tuesday at a massage parlor in Acworth,
30 miles north of Atlanta, four of whom died. Police found three
women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa in the
Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, and one woman dead at
Aromatherapy Spa across the street.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday
that its diplomats have confirmed that four of the victims who
died were women of Korean descent.
A 21-year-old white man suspected in the shooting has been
taken into custody and charged with murder.
IS THERE A MOTIVE?
As many raised concerns that the shootings are the latest in
a string of hate crimes against Asian Americans, police
suggested the suspect may have had other motives.
The alleged gunman told police the attack was not racially
motivated, claiming to have a "sex addiction," and apparently
lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation, authorities
said. The true motive behind the attacks is unclear at this
HOW HAVE SOME ASIAN AMERICANS RESPONDED?
Asian-American lawmakers have expressed heartbreak on social
media and emphasized the need to support Asian-American
communities during this moment. The official Twitter account of
the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus wrote that its
members are "horrified by the news ... at a time when we’re
already seeing a spike in anti-Asian violence."
Many lawmakers acknowledged a heightened sense of fear among
Asian Americans as a result of the increasing number of hate
Representative Judy Chu of California reminded people of the
effect of anti-Asian rhetoric. "As we wait for more details to
emerge, I ask everyone to remember that hurtful words and
rhetoric have real-life consequences," she wrote on Twitter.
"Please stand up, condemn this violence, and help us #StopAsianHate."
HOW PREVALENT HAVE ASSAULTS AGAINST ASIAN
Recent attacks, including the killing of an 84-year-old San
Francisco man in February, have raised concerns about worsening
hostilities toward Asian Americans. Nearly 3,800 incidents have
been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting
center for Asian American Pacific Islanders, and its partner
advocacy groups, since March 2020.
Police in several major cities saw a sharp uptick in
Asian-targeted hate crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to
data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism
at California State University, San Bernardino. New York City
went from three incidents to 27, Los Angeles from seven to 15,
and Denver had three incidents in 2020 — the first reported
there in six years.
HOW FAR BACK DOES ANTI-ASIAN RACISM GO IN THE
Racism against Asian Americans has long been an ugly thread
of U.S. history and was enshrined into law in the Chinese
Exclusion Act of 1882, which was designed to prevent
Chinese-American laborers from entering the U.S. as a result of
Asian Americans have also long been used as medical
scapegoats in the U.S. and falsely blamed for public health
problems, including a smallpox outbreak in San Francisco in the
1870s. This racist association between Asian Americans and
illness and uncleanliness has also affected views of Asian food
and contributes to the "perpetual foreigner" trope that suggests
Asian people are fundamentally outsiders.
This fuelled suspicions of Japanese Americans during World
War II, when many were sent to detention camps solely due to
their ethnicity, as well as Islamophobia and prejudice toward
Muslim and South Asian Americans following the 9/11 terrorist
In 1982, 100 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act, a
27-year-old Chinese American, Vincent Chin, died after being
attacked in Detroit because of his race. At the time, a growing
Japanese auto industry was leading to major job losses in the
city’s auto sector. His killers, two autoworkers, mistook him
for Japanese, using racial slurs as they beat him outside a club
where he was celebrating his bachelor party. His death led to
protests from Asian Americans nationwide.
WHAT ARE POLITICIANS DOING ABOUT THE RECENT
President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January
condemning anti-Asian xenophobia in response to the COVID-19
pandemic. The directive acknowledges the role rhetoric from
politicians, including the use of derogatory names for the
coronavirus, has played in the rise of anti-Asian sentiment and
hate incidents targeting Asian Americans. Former president
Donald Trump, for example, has repeatedly referred to COVID-19
as "the China virus," including during a Tuesday night interview
with Fox News.
The rash of attacks in the past two months has renewed
attention from politicians, including California governor Gavin
Newsom, who signed off on legislation allocating $1.4 million to
Stop AAPI Hate and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center for
community resources and tracking of anti-Asian hate incidents.
Initiatives such as increased police presence, volunteer
patrols, and special crime hotlines have also been suggested by
local officials and citizens with big-name brands like the
Golden State Warriors and Apple, based in the Bay Area,
promising to donate to the cause.
To report an AAPI hate crime, go to