Typing away on my homework one evening in March, my focus was briefly interrupted by a new phone notification. In one unsuspecting glance, I read a headline that made my heart drop; the trauma of being a gun violence survivor hit me in yet another wave. As much as I wanted to cry, to act, to react somehow—the worst part was that I felt like I couldn’t. I was too conditioned to brush away everything I ever experienced as an Asian American.
It’s been six months since the hate-fueled mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia on March 16, 2021. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women. The pain of this day sticks with me—and with other young people, too.
This is why I asked my fellow Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) peers in Students Demand Action how they felt on that mid-March day. In 88 words or less—this number was chosen because, in Chinese culture, the number 8 is considered extremely lucky as it has a similar pronunciation to “fortune”—I asked them to reflect on their experiences. I asked them:
- What did you feel when you heard the news?
- Has the rise in hate during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you and your family?
- What does it mean to be an AAPI leader in the gun violence prevention movement?
Here are their responses:
I first started learning about the oversexualization of Asian American women under a year ago when there was discourse over the musical my school decided to do and how it continued the stereotype. When I heard about the shooting, I immediately connected it to this problem, without even knowing much about it. As I read up more, I only ended up confirming my suspicions. It makes no sense to me how the actual people who investigated the shooting can deny its tie to racism when it’s so obvious.
On January 30, when coronavirus was confirmed in China, people gave sideways glances whenever my family and I walked past. Some even told us to go back to our country. My parents wouldn’t let me go out after 6 p.m., and my mom wore a hat and sunglasses to grocery shopping. Everywhere I went, people seem to avoid me and glare at me. I quickly became self-conscience and did remote learning to avoid these aggressions before switching back. In school, I purposely hide my coughs to avoid glances.
I want gun violence to end because this affected everyone in the world, including AAPI, and as an Asian this hurts me. I want respect and trust in the world to be welcomed and be peaceful too.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been subject to the burdens of microaggressions, the treatment of being a “perpetual foreigner,” and the scathing experience of racism for hundreds of years in the United States. It has only been on the rise during the pandemic. I urge you to take the time to educate yourself about the AAPI experience in the US and to do the self-work necessary to become anti-racist every day, and to take a moment to remember the victims and one survivor of the grievous Atlanta spa shooting. In honor of:
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33
- Xiaojie Tan, 49
- Daoyou Feng, 44
- Paul Andre Michels, 54
- Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz, survivor of the March 16 shootings in Atlanta
- Hyun Jung Grant, 51
- Soon Chung Park, 74
- Suncha Kim, 69
- Yong Ae Yue, 63