One year has passed since a gunman took the lives of six Asian women and two others at spas in the Atlanta area. The shooting spurred new activism and awareness around violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. And yet reports of such violence are on the rise: One recent study found that anti-Asian hate crimes jumped more than 300 percent in the United States last year, and cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., reported dramatic increases as well. Women are disproportionately likely to be targeted.
On the anniversary of the Atlanta attack, Nicole Chung, the author of the newsletter I Have Notes, spoke with Connie Wun, Ph.D., the executive director of AAPI Women Lead. They discussed the legacy of violence against Asian and Pacific Islander women—and the resistance to it.
“There is a long history of aggression against our bodies and communities, here and abroad,” Wun told Chung. “People need to understand that we experience racial and gender violence beyond the deaths. They only see or hear about the terror when people die, but this violence is an everyday experience—and by that, I’m talking about the racism and sexism Asian women experience in corporate America, at the hands of the medical industry, on the street.”
Calling every form of this violence a “hate crime,” Wun added, “is actually a problem, because it can minimize everything else that causes the violence—as if violence is only interpersonal, something you see on the streets, something Instagrammable. Violence against us is layered and systemic.”
Last month, Chung wrote about the questions she struggles with when talking to her teenage daughter about violence against Asian women. “Should I tell you that I don’t want you to walk through the world afraid, even though I have sometimes walked through the world afraid? … Should I share the bitter truth I have learned: that many will only see or pretend to care about us after we are targeted or attacked or murdered—because, as another Asian American writer said to me last week, we are only relevant to them when we are suffering?” she asks.
“You deserve to be safe. We all deserve to be safe.”
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