Dear GSS Community:
Three days ago, on March 16th, 2021, eight people were violently gunned down in Atlanta, Georgia, six of whom were Asian women. The grief and outrage experienced in the wake of this unimaginable attack is a shameful extension of our country’s long history of violence against Asians and Asian Americans. Examples of blaming Asian Americans in times of crisis can be found throughout U.S. history, the most obvious example being the internment of innocent Japanese Americans during World War II. Sadly, history will record this past year as a period of intensified, racially motivated aggression toward Asians and Asian American communities.
Thousands of Asian Americans serving as essential workers on the front lines have done so in fear of both the Coronavirus and intensified racialized violence. The intensification has been fueled by politicians and other leaders freely spouting stigmatizing rhetoric that blame Asian Americans for the Coronavirus.
Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., has recorded nearly 3,800 hate incidents this year towards Asian Americans. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University San Bernardino, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 149% in 2020 across 16 U.S. cities. More than 60% of attacks have been directed at Asian women, reinforcing deeply rooted tolerance of racialized misogyny.
Given this reality, it is unfathomable that less than 24 hours after a mass shooter gunned down eight people, seven of whom were women and six of whom were Asian women, 172 House Republicans stood to vote against the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The 1994 VAWA represents landmark legislation that helps combat stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault against women. Nevertheless, House Republicans have refused to support the addition of critical updates to the Act that were allowed to lapse under the Trump administration. As if this were not enough, Law Enforcement Officials in Atlanta remain unclear as to whether or not Tuesday’s mass shooting will be classified as a hate crime.
As individuals, our hearts go out to the families of the Atlanta victims and the members of their communities. As social workers, we recognize that, this week, Asian Americans have had their worst fears reinforced by the shooter’s horrific act and by others’ refusal to acknowledge our country’s deeply rooted tolerance of racism, violence, and misogyny.
Fighting for social justice means attending to both overt and covert acts of racism and violence. As a community and as a profession, we can best honor the Atlanta victims by recommitting ourselves to an expanded vision of justice in all its forms and through all that we do.
Debra M. McPhee, Ph.D.
Graduate School of Social Service