WASHINGTON: The crimes against Asian-Americans – unprovoked assaults, muggings, abuse etc – had been reported for months.
Organisations such as the Asian American Pacific Islander had warned for more than a year that hate incidents against Asians in the US were rising from the xenophobic stance of right-wing politicians, recoding nearly 4000 attacks since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. On Tuesday, the attacks took a bloody toll after a white shooter professing love of guns and god allegedly shot dead eight people, including six women of Korean origin, at three spas in the Atlanta region.
The suspect, named as Robert Aaron Long 21, was taken into custody after a chase across county lines in Georgia, a politically volatile state that President Joe Biden won narrowly in a contested election that his rival Donald Trump refused to concede. The shooter did not appear to have any political affiliation, but on an Instagram page that was reported to belong to him but that has since been taken down by authorities, he wrote: “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. This pretty much sums up my life. It’s a pretty good life.”
The lives he allegedly took belonged to seven women – six of them Koreans working in spas – and a lone man who appeared to be a customer. A friend of the suspect who spoke to the local media said the alleged shooter was a “nerdy” and very “innocent-seeming” guy who would not even curse.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Wednesday morning that President Joe Biden was aware of the shootings and there the usual expressions of commiseration from various quarters, but the group StopAAPIHate, which has been cautioning for weeks against the growing threats warned that “the latest attack will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure.”
“There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic, but not for AAPIs unless something changes,” Stop AAPI Hate Cofounder Dr Russell Jeung said.
Verbal and physical assaults against Asian-Americans rose significantly after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly after the previous Trump administration went on the offensive against China, using terms such as the “China virus” and “Kung Flu.”
As usual, there was a world of difference in the way the white gunman was treated – with kid gloves – with many observers pointing out to how a black or colored suspect would have been treated. “A white man killed 8 Asian Women in Atlanta and survived. Philando Castle (a Black man) was killed within 62 seconds of thepolice encounter during a traffic stop. He was shot 7 TIMES at point blank range in front of his fiancé and 4 year old daughter! There’s truly two Americas” read one social media post.