Gemma Chan, Olivia Munn and Rihanna underline “brutal” truth of the Atlanta shootings

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

“What happened in Atlanta was brutal, tragic, and is certainly not an isolated incident by any means.” 

On Tuesday 16 March, three deadly shootings were carried out at spas in Atlanta, Georgia, leaving eight people dead and one wounded.

Six of those killed were Asian women, and South Korea’s foreign ministry has said four were of Korean ethnicity. All but two of the victims have been identified so far: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Julie Park, and Hyeon Jeong Park.

Elcias R Hernandez-Ortiz was identified as having been injured.

The suspect, named as Robert Aaron Long, faces multiple counts of murder as well as aggravated assault. 

“He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” said Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, adding that Long was caught with a 9mm handgun and did not resist arrest.

“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” the police officer continued, as per the BBC’s report. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

The callous Jay Baker’s comments sparked outcry on social media, and several of Baker’s Facebook posts from 30 March and 2 April 2020 have since been unearthed, in which he promoted sales of an anti-Asian T-shirt.

“The shirts, echoing the rhetoric of President Donald J. Trump, referred to the coronavirus as an ‘imported virus from Chy-na,’” reports The New York Times.

While Baker and other police officials have insisted it is still too early to understand Long’s motive, it is worth noting that the devastating attack comes amid a sharp uprising in crimes against Asian-Americans.

“When we learned about this last night, we were horrified and the sinking feeling that I had was this had to be a crime related to AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) hate. As we have learned details of the event unfold, I still believe that this is a racially-motivated crime,” Georgia State House Representative Be Nguyen told CNN on Wednesday.

“In this particular case, where the victims were Asian women, we see the intersections of racism, xenophobia, and gender-based violence.”

Responding to the ongoing news story via Instagram, Gemma Chan has called upon her followers to “pay attention to what is happening.”

“This is the latest in a surge of horrific attacks on the Asian community. Racism and misogyny are not mutually exclusive,” the Marvel actor wrote. “In fact, sexualised racial harassment and violence is something that many of us face regularly.

“We need to stop the dehumanisation of Asians. We need to stop the scapegoating of Asians for Covid. We need to unite against all forms of hate.

“Please spread awareness, check in on your Asian friends because we are not ok.. educate yourself and others on the model minority myth and the long history of anti-Asian racism. There is a link in my bio if you would like to donate to vetted community organisations.”

Chan finished powerfully: “Please don’t be silent.”

Rihanna, too, has used her social platform to shine a light on the issue, tweeting: “What happened yesterday in Atlanta was brutal, tragic, and is certainly not an isolated incident by any means.

“AAPI hate has been rampantly perpetuated and it’s disgusting! I’m heartbroken for the Asian community and my heart is with the loved ones of those we lost.

“The hate must stop.”

To All the Boys star Lana Condor tweeted: “Wake up! Your Asian friends and family are deeply scared, horrified, sick to their stomachs and wildly angry. Please, please, please check in on us, please stand with us. Please.

“Your Asian friend needs you, even if they aren’t publicly grieving on social media.”

Elsewhere, Olivia Munn wrote: “I am tired of people humanising white terrorists and excusing their murderous acts. ‘He was a sex addict.’ ‘He was having a really bad day.’

“This is a way to try to justify and rationalise what he did instead of calling it what it is: a hate crime against Asian women.

“We have to hold him to account. We have to hold people who think that way to account.”

She added: “You have an entire population living under threat. Asian Americans are targeted. You wanna talk mental health? Let’s talk about how there’s a mental health crisis about living in a country that attacks you just for being you.

“We need help. Please. Stop Asian hate.”

“The targeting of our Asian brothers and sisters is sickening, but not surprising, given the normalising of anti-Asian hate speech in the past year,” tweeted Mindy Kaling.

“Enough is enough!”

And Padma Lakshmi tweeted: “This is deeply, deeply sad. Trump on Fox referred to Covid-19 using the racist slur ‘China virus.’ He previously called it the ‘Kung Flu.’

“While he continues to spread hatred against Asian-Americans, people like this shooter are listening.”

Lakshmi also, like so many others, has urged people following the story on social media to share the names of the Atlanta shooting victims.

“Say their names: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Julie Park, Hyeon Jeong Park,” she said, noting that the identities of the other two victims have not yet been released.

How you can support the AAPI community

1) Donate

Many organisations are working to fight against AAPI violence and provide resources to the community’s most vulnerable members, including:

  • Stop AAPI Hate 
  • AAPI Women Lead
  • National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Asian Pacific Fund’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund
  • Red Canary Song
  • Heart Of Dinner 
  • Welcome to Chinatown
  • Asian Mental Health Collective

2) Educate yourself

Start by reading books like Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong, Minority Invisibility: An Asian American Experience by Wei Sun, The Making Of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee, and Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

There are also a number of anti-Asian violence resources available online to help educate and assist those who wish to become better allies. 

3) Stay informed

Read the news, interrogate the headlines, and please don’t ignore what’s happening. It’s also worth following accounts like Hate Is A Virus, AAPI Women Lead, Rise Now founder Amanda Nguyễn, and They Can’t Burn Us All on Instagram, too.

4) Read up on how to safely intervene if you witness racist abuse

There are guides that suggest helpful behaviours in these situations, focusing on diverting attention from the situation (sitting next to someone and talking to them about a random, unrelated topic, rather than “standing up for them” or confronting the aggressor).

5) Report hate crimes

If you or anyone you know has witnessed or experienced a hate crime, please report it to the police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

In an emergency, always dial 999

Main image: David Titlow for Stylist

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