A state senator in Georgia warned her peers about the disturbing increase in anti-Asian racism and discrimination across the country just one day before a man shot and killed eight people, six of them of Asian some of South Korean descent, in a mass shooting in Atlanta on Tuesday evening.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia state senator Michelle Au spoke to other state senators on Monday about the wave of anti-Asian racism taking hold of the country since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Asian Americans are part of our country's plurality. We are some of the many, and we're part of that one. And all I'm asking right now, as the first East Asian state senator in Georgia, is simply to fully consider us as part of our communities. Recognize that we need help, we need protection, and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate," Au said, adding that statistics show a 150% increase in attacks on Asian Americans and Asian immigrants between 2019 and 2020.
Au made the comments just one day before a white man, Robert Aaron Long, opened fire at a massage parlor in Acworth, a suburb north of Atlanta, killing eight people, according to BBC.
Long traveled to three different spas and shot multiple people at each location before police caught him after a manhunt. Police used data from his cellphone to track him from the massage parlors, according to NBC News.
Police faced backlash on Wednesday morning for refusing to say the shootings were a hate crime and repeatedly denying they were racially motivated.
#BREAKING Cherokee Sheriff tells me investigators interviewed suspected gunman who killed 8 people at Asian spas. Right now, Robert Long gave NO indicators these were racially motivated attacks/hate crime. I’m told Long picked locations specifically @wsbtvhttps://t.co/vK4bmKNCCo
— Chris Jose (@ChrisJoseWSB) March 17, 2021
According to NBC News' Tom Winter, Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Long "may have frequented some of these places in the past" and may have had sexual addiction issues.
Both Reynolds and Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant repeatedly denied the shootings had anything to do with the race of those killed.
"We are still early in this investigation so we cannot make that determination at this moment," Bryant said during a press conference.
The statements enraged many Asian advocacy groups, who said the attacks were very obviously targeting Asian women.
“We are heartbroken by these acts of violence. Six Asian women lost their lives. Now is the time to hold the victims and their families in our hearts and in our light. We’re calling on our allies across communities of color to stand with us in grief and solidarity against racist violence in all its forms. When our most vulnerable community members are targeted, we all need to band together,” Stephanie Cho, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, said in a statement.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta criticized former President Donald Trump for repeatedly calling COVID-19 the "China virus" or the "Kung Flu," tying the language to the larger wave of anti-Asian hatred.
Trump was told the terms were offensive to Asian Americans and were stoking backlash toward people of Asian descent.
Trump even used the term repeatedly in a Fox News segment that aired right before the mass shootings, according to Newsweek.
"While anti-Asian violence is woven throughout our nation’s history, the Trump administration’s relentless scapegoating of Asians for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased the incidences of hate and violence against Asian Americans around the country," the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta said in a statement, adding that Asian American women were twice as likely to be targeted in attacks.
“That the Asian women murdered yesterday were working highly vulnerable and low-wage jobs during an ongoing pandemic speaks directly to the compounding impacts of misogyny, structural violence, and white supremacy,” said Phi Nguyen, litigation director at Asian American Advancing Justice-Atlanta.
The House of Representatives held a hearing this week on discrimination and violence Asian Americans have faced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There has been a long history of anti-Asian racism in the United States, especially during times of social or economic unrest. Unfortunately, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this bigotry has reared its ugly head once again," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler.
"As President Biden said, the rise in violence against our fellow Asian Americans is wrong, un-American, and it must stop," Nadler added referencing recent comments made by President Joe Biden, who condemned "vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated" during a speech last week.