As our society reopens, mass shootings reemerge to show oppressive forces. One of the recent tragedies was caused by a white man assailing nine people at spas in Atlanta, killing eight. Six of the seven women he shot are Asian American: four are Korean American; two are Chinese American; one of the two men is an Army veteran and a handyman; and one man is a Guatemalan immigrant and a passerby. Their names are:
Delaina Ashley Yaun (You-en), 33.
Daoyou Feng (DOW-yo Fung), 44.
Xiaojie (SHAW-jee-ay)/Emily Tan, 49.
Hyun Jung Grant, 51.
Paul Andre Michels (Mee-shols), 54.
Yong Ae Yue (YOUNG Eh Yoo), 63.
Suncha (SOON-ja) Kim, 69.
Soon Chung (Jung) Park, 74.
Elcias (El-see-us) R. Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, the only victim to survive.
They were parents and grandparents, highly valued, loved and needed by many. The assailant’s claim of attacking these people to combat his sex addiction rings so false the police officer never should have repeated it. If the victims had been sex workers, they still had a right to live, and live free of violence, just as less oppressed people’s lives are their own.
Regardless of our race, violence against Asian Americans should inflame each of us. Washingtonians who register as Asian alone on the Census are 9.6% of the state’s population and 15.4% of Seattle’s population, the highest group of any race (with the caveat that Hispanic/Latinx counted as ethnicity not race, and Hispanic/Latinx people are 13% of our state population).
Despite this, Japanese internment during WWII was widely believed to have been an effort by white people to steal the land, businesses, and wealth of their Japanese American neighbors. With the exception of a paper on Bainbridge Island, few Washingtonians fought against the internment. In 2011, the Department of Justice admitted it lied when it asserted there was a threat from people of Japanese ancestry in advocating for their internment in Korematsu v. U.S.
Racialized comments by government officials lead to violence. A recent article by The Seattle Times showed that reported hate crimes increased 64% in 2020, including those against Asian Americans.
The frequency of mass shootings laced with racial hate is devastating. Fighting for common sense gun regulations is a fight for racial justice — the tragedies must end.
Jill Mullins is a social justice lawyer in Bellingham, Washington.
Read more in the Apr. 21-27, 2021 issue.