Atlanta Spa Shootings: The Response to Anti-Asian Hate Crime

Writer: Clara

Editor: Keitaro

Visual: Kailani

On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings occured in Atlanta, Georgia. The shooter, 21 year-old Robert Aaron Long killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at three different spas. Long claimed that he had a sex addiction and targeted the spas and Asian women because there was a “temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” He allegedly claimed that his slaughter had no racial motive and the federal investigators said that there is currently not enough evidence to label the attacks as a hate crime. However, since seven of the eight victims were women, and six of them were Asian women, people are questioning whether the shooter really had no other motive. 

Moreover, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is facing criticism for his seemingly defensive and casual attitude towards the suspect. At a news conference on March 17, Baker said “He was pretty much fed up and had been, kind of, at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” It was also discovered that in April 2020, he had made some racist controversial comments on Facebook promoting a T-shirt that referred to COVID-19 as an “imported virus from Chy-na.” Baker was subsequently removed from being the spokesperson for this case. 

Since the beginning of last year, AAPI (American Asian and Pacific Islanders) targeted hate crime has skyrocketed. The STOP AAPI Hate non-profit organization reported that nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over the past year during the pandemic, with Chinese people taking up 42% of the reported incidents. Many people blame former President Trump for fueling these hate crimes as he frequently called COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus”.  

In response to the Atlanta Spa shootings, President Biden declared “we condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing crisis of gender-based and anti-Asian violence that has long plagued our nation. I urge Congress to swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting, and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian American communities.”

Bee Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American member of the Georgia House of Representatives, said “regardless of what the alleged suspect in custody says or claims, the truth is it was three Asian businesses. It was targeted. It did result in six Asian women dying. And you simply cannot separate the misogyny, the sex industry piece from the racism piece.” She then continued, “there’s a long history of Asian American violence in this country, and it’s been erased. And it is not told. As an Asian American child growing up, my parents always wanted me to keep my head down, to remain silent, to not get any attention from anywhere because they were always afraid, ultimately, that we would be a target. And that sense of safety and that sense of invisibility has harmed our community.”

In the ISM community, Elizabeth said, “as someone who considered America my home and identified myself as Korean-American, the Atlanta shooting incident has made me worried. It brought back thoughts of when I was younger in America when there were “jokes” and questions about my Asian identity. It is heartbreaking now to realize that the United States of America, the country where I grew up, is now a country that I have to fear because of my Asian background.” 
The Atlanta shooting incident has shed light on the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and people from all around the world are showing their support. The AAPI Community Fund on “Gofundme” has already raised $4.5 million from 41,000 donors. Here is a link that has curated resources for ways we can take action, including spreading awareness, donating, and more.

Works consulted: 

“8 Dead In Atlanta Spa Shootings, With Fears Of Anti-Asian Bias”. Nytimes.Com, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/17/us/shooting-atlanta-acworth. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.

Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN. “What We Know About Robert Aaron Long, The Suspect In Atlanta Spa Shootings”. CNN, 2021, https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/17/us/robert-aaron-long-suspected-shooter/index.html. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.

News, ABC. “Georgia Sheriff’s Department Under Fire After Official Says Spa Shootings Suspect Had ‘Really Bad Day'”. ABC News, 2021, https://abcnews.go.com/US/georgia-sheriffs-department-fire-official-spa-shootings-suspect/story?id=76533598. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.

“Deputy Who Said Shooting Suspect Had A ‘Bad Day’ Posted Facebook Messages Blaming COVID On China”. PEOPLE.Com, 2021, https://people.com/crime/sheriffs-deputy-who-said-shooting-suspect-had-a-bad-day-once-wrote-anti-asian-facebook-posts/. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.

“Statement By President Biden On The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act | The White House”. The White House, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/19/statement-by-president-biden-on-the-covid-19-hate-crimes-act/. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.

“NPR Cookie Consent And Choices”. Npr.Org, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/03/17/978288312/georgias-asian-american-community-after-spa-shootings-and-anti-asian-hate-crimes. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.

Company, Tampa. “Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans: What The Numbers Show | Politifact”. Tampa Bay Times, 2021, https://www.tampabay.com/news/nation-world/2021/03/20/hate-crimes-against-asian-americans-what-the-numbers-show-politifact/. Accessed 3 Apr 2021.