"Eight dead in gunfights in Atlanta with fear of anti-Asian bias."
"The captain who said the spa shooting suspect had a 'bad day' is no longer a spokesman, officials say."
"He said sex addiction was the reason he killed Asian women."
I spent the first 48 hours constantly updating Google and scanning headlines as details about the footage were slowly releasing. As a devout student gun violence prevention activist, I found myself in similar situations several times: I spent an afternoon updating a page to learn about the victims of a shooting. But as a member of the Korean and larger AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community, this shoot hit a very personal chord.
Within the past 12 months the organization has recognized Stop AAPI Hate 3,800 hate crime incidents Target group of the AAPI community. These attacks range from verbal abuse to assault and murder. An overwhelming number of hate crimes are directed against AAPI women. Yet even with these devastating statistics, Georgian law enforcement officials and President Joe Biden did not officially classify or recognize the Atlanta shooting as a hate crime, despite law enforcement agencies saying so "Nothing was off the table" in determining the subject. Instead, Sagittarius' actions have been streamlined and promoted by many as the result of a "bad day".
The main causes and widespread effects of this shooting go beyond defense, simply having a "bad day". Everyone has bad days. My bad days – bursting into tears after defending the rights of undocumented immigrants and being labeled an "Asian bastard" in the school hallway – are often due to the discrimination inherent in our American culture. However, I did not use it as an excuse to commit violence. The Atlanta Sagittarius "bad day" killed eight people and resulted from the centuries-old intersection of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, immigration, misogyny and gun violence. And it's frustrating that there have apparently been countless attacks on Asian Americans – many of them elders – culminating in these recent mass shootings for national uprising and awareness of AAPI hatred in the public, in the mass media, and in our political circles Motivate leaders.
For the past three years I've worked as a student attorney advocating gun spirit legislation after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting hit my then South Florida community. I am grateful to have learned more about the influence of systemic racism in the statistics and patterns of gun violence and its disproportionate impact on black and brown communities. Primarily due to the fact that the AAPI community is often portrayed as "successful" – which obliterates the struggles of various Asian and Pacific islanders within the AAPI umbrella – and the harmful myth of the "model minority", I've seen time and again how AAPI experiences are often erased from the narrative of American racism and hardship. Even in my activist community, where I expected AAPI hatred to be recognized, I was exposed to numerous micro-aggressions. In fact, at a leadership conference, I was told that I was "ungrateful" for wanting more AAPI representation in our history curriculum, and yelled at that "not all minority groups are equally represented".
The honest truth about being an AAPI activist in the Gun Violence Prevention Movement is this: all of your activism is a constant balance between privilege and recognition. In discussing the disproportionate effects of gun violence, many members of the AAPI community find themselves in a gray area between white and black and brown communities. I am trying to elevate the communities hardest hit by gun violence while drawing attention to the unique challenges my own community is facing. I have had numerous conversations defining who I am in the AAPI community and finding a balance between highlighting my personal struggles in the south and attending a homogeneous school while realizing that my story is less as a fraction of the multidimensional, infinite narrative by is the AAPI community. It is a very careful and evolving understanding that I am constantly working on because it is important to my goals as an Gun Violence Prevention Activist and as a Korean American.
It can be complicated, but maybe it's these intricacies of our identities and the roles we play in society that really make this work so rewarding and enjoyable. More importantly, however, the past few months have both strengthened and identified the allies of the AAPI community in their corner, reminding people of the long history and impact of AAPI activism. During the aftermath of the Atlanta shooting, friends and colleagues from the gun violence movement sent texts ranging from "I think of you and everyone in the AAPI community <3" to "a little reminder that you are good and kind and nice person."
It is these moments of pure love and appreciation that persist through media coverage of such a hateful tragedy, giving me hope and making it worthwhile to fight for this work.
Seo Yoon (Yoonie) Yang is an aspiring high school graduate in Tennessee. She is passionate about advocacy, the prevention of gun violence, racial justice and international relations. She has previously published articles on YR Media, TeenVogue, JTA and Amendo.
prism is a not-for-profit news agency run by BIPOC that puts the spotlight on the people, places and topics currently not featured in the national media. We strive to produce the kind of journalism that treats blacks, indigenous and ethnic people, women, the LGBTQ + community and other invisible groups as experts on our own experiences, resilience and struggles for justice. Sign up for our email list to get our stories in your inbox, and ffollow us further Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.