In March, a series of shootings at Atlanta-area spas left eight people dead, including six Asian women. The tragedy is part of a trend of increased attacks targeting Asian Americans. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino analyzed hate crimes in 16 of the country’s largest cities and found hate crimes targeting Asians increased by nearly 150 percent in 2020.
Joshua Ang Price, president and co-founder of the Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus of Arkansas, says he had been tracking increased attacks on Asian Americans for some time and wasn’t surprised by the Atlanta shootings. “Dangerous” rhetoric like “China virus” or “kung flu” that blames Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a rise in attacks, Price says.
“People are at the end of their rope. They’re out of work, maybe even out of work for months if not a year, having difficulty paying bills, sustaining their family and hey, here’s a group we can blame,” Price says.
Activist Susie Reece was also not surprised by the Atlanta shootings. While attacks against Asian Americans have been on the rise during the pandemic, Reece says they haven’t gotten much attention in mainstream media.
“We’re not being heard. We’re not even being highlighted that this is happening to us,” Reece says.
Prompted by the attacks, Reece and Price took action by creating ArkAsians, a Facebook group for Asian American Pacific Islanders in Arkansas and their allies. Price also hosted a virtual #StopAsianHate virtual town hall.
Shortly after the Atlanta shootings, a police report was released detailing an attack on an Asian man in Hot Springs by a Bentonville police captain who has since resigned. Councilwoman Gayatri Agnew says she was “shocked and saddened” to learn a leader within her city was the man involved in the assault.
“Public servants at every level do need to be held to a higher standard,” she says.
Agnew and a friend partnered with the Momentary, a contemporary arts venue in Bentonville, to host a Stop Asian Hate vigil in March to help create a sense of racial solidarity and send a message of belonging.
“Everyone should feel a sense of belonging in the community where they live,” she says.
You can hear more from this conversation by listening the podcast episode at the top of this page.