Californians Fear More Anti-Asian Attacks After Georgia Killings
Once again, people across the country and in California are shocked and upset about violence against people of Asian descent — this time because of killings in Georgia.
On Tuesday night, a gunman opened fire at three spas in the Atlanta area, killing eight people. Police said Wednesday that the white man charged with murder in the attacks, Robert Aaron Long, told them he had a sexual addiction and had attacked the massage parlors to eliminate his temptation. Authorities said they did not believe that there was a racial motive for the shootings but had not ruled it out.
However, six of the victims were women of Asian descent, raising fears among Asian Americans that they are being targeted for attacks because of their ethnic heritage. Nationwide, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were the targets of nearly 3,800 hate incidents over the past year, according to a report this week by Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has been collecting data about discrimination against Asian Americans.
In San Francisco, which has experienced a rash of recent attacks against Asians, Mayor London Breed announced Wednesday that police would step up patrols in predominantly Asian neighborhoods. Two attacks occurred just this week, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
“We have seen a rise of hate crimes against our elderly Asian community, and I want to make it clear that we won’t tolerate it,” Breed said at a news conference. “San Francisco will continue to support and uplift our Asian community.”
Across the Bay, emotions were still raw over the death last week of Pak Ho, a 75-year-old Oakland resident who was punched hard during a robbery, fell and incurred severe brain injuries. Some community members were planning a rally against anti-Asian hate for Saturday.
On Wednesday, a group of state lawmakers and local officials representing Asian and Pacific Islander communities in California called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to choose an Asian American or Pacific Islander to be the state’s next attorney general — a call that they said had taken on new urgency.
“We need leadership across our state and the nation to take action,” David Chiu, a member of California’s state Assembly, said at a virtual news conference Wednesday. “We need to stand up against these hate crimes.”
The call comes as California’s current attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is awaiting Senate confirmation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of health and human services.
Jesse Melgar, Newsom’s spokesperson, said in a statement Wednesday that the governor was waiting for Becerra to be confirmed before announcing his pick to replace him.
“He is considering a range of qualified candidates and will announce his decision when one is made,” Melgar said.
Newsom, in a statement on Twitter, said, “The attack in Georgia and the racist attacks that have been happening all across our country are abhorrent. Our hearts are with the families of all the victims of this horrific act and the entire AAPI community tonight.”
The governor recently signed a bill allocating $1.4 million to support Stop AAPI Hate’s research.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is from the Bay Area, also condemned the attacks.
The killings in Georgia are the latest in a growing list of high-profile attacks that Asian American elected leaders and activists have cited in a broad push to address anti-Asian harassment and violence.
In California, much of the recent outpouring of pain has come after attacks on elders in Asian neighborhoods. While some community leaders have demanded increased police presence in those neighborhoods, others have said that simply adding law enforcement officers — who might wrongly target Black people — is not a solution.
Chiu said Wednesday that having an Asian American “top cop” would have to be part of a broad slate of efforts, including the creation of a racial bias task force that would bring together “relevant state agencies” to better serve Asian Americans and other Californians of color who need mental health help or other aid.
But experts said that Asian Americans occupy something of a racial middle ground, making the conversation around fixes more difficult.
Kyeyoung Park, a professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at UCLA, said that Asian immigrants had long been treated as migrant laborers and less than human.
In the case of the spas in Georgia, she said, “racial capitalism” is intertwined in a damaging way with the sexual exploitation of Asian women over many decades — particularly Korean women.
“These women, in many cases, were at the bottom of the hierarchy,” she said.