In a horrific brazen attack, eight people in the U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia had their lives taken by gunfire. Six victims were Asian women with four being of Korean descent.
Robert Aaron Long, the perpetrator, blamed his sex addictions for the shooting and told investigators he did not have a racial motive. Despite FBI Director Christopher Way’s accepting that Long was not racially motivated, a number of universities and students in Georgia argued that the Atlanta shooting had racial connotations to it.
The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), a university located a few blocks down from the shooting site, took measures to prevent racially motivated acts. Multiple student boards and faculty associations at Georgia Tech announced warnings about awareness of violence toward Asians on campus and in the surrounding areas. Asian communities in Atlanta, however, demonstrated racial discrimination towards Asians has long been a problem.
“You yellow dog!” were the words yelled at Eufeng Chow, a student of Georgia Tech, while he was walking back to his dormitory.
“It was kind of weird and offensive, but I didn’t get particularly mad,” Chow said in an interview with Technique, Georgia Tech’s student newspaper.
According to Chow, he had prepared himself well for racist behaviors as hate crimes towards Asians surged in the U.S. Chow added he always carries a pepper spray, a flashlight, and a pocketknife whenever he heads outside.
“I’ve seen many people around me say they feel unsafe these days,” Chow said. “I started telling myself and the others to ‘get prepared.’ This has become the world we are living in.”
Likewise, Vivian Cheng, a senior studying Biology at Georgia Tech, faced racially discriminatory behavior on campus.
“Whenever I introduce myself as Vivian Cheng, there are people asking what my real name is,” Cheng said. “The fact is, I was born and raised in the States. My parents were born and raised in the States. And my real name is Vivian.”
According to Cheng, these acts of racial discrimination towards Asians in the U.S. can be linked to a sociology term called “model minorities.”
Model minority is a term where marginalized groups are seen as privileged or well-educated compared to other major populations. The ongoing stereotype that Asians are highly educated and come from wealthy backgrounds leads to viewing Asians as model minorities. Cheng believes this is why racism faced by Asians has been left unchecked.
Students and members of Georgia Tech administration vocally addressed the shooting and supported the Asian American Pacific Islander communities. Georgia Tech students gathered on March 20 for a solidarity march called the March Against Hate.
Emory University also released an official statement on the anti-Asian prejudice and violence. Emory’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) noted there have been more reports of anti-Asian prejudice and violence since the pandemic began.
In light of these tragic deaths, ISSS held a student-focused program addressing the surge of anti-Asian violence on both national and local level on March 18. During the program, ISSS provided a webinar to learn more about the historical context of anti-Asian violence and self-care practices that students can use to sustain themselves and their communities.
Emory president Gregory Fenves issued a statement on March 17 regarding the murders in Atlanta as well.
“The Asian and Asian American communities have endured discrimination and violence throughout the pandemic and this attack comes at a moment of horrific intolerance and hatred,” Fenves wrote. “Our hearts go out to all who are hurting today throughout Atlanta and in the Asian and Asian American communities. All of Emory stands united in the face of this atrocity – against violence, for compassion and understanding, and with great sympathy for those who are in pain.”