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Mass Shooting In Which Asian Women Were Largely The Victims Comes Amid Wave Of Bias Against Asian-Americans

Six of the eight victims killed at three separate Atlanta-area massage parlors were of Asian descent. While the motive for the attack hasn't been officially established, it comes during an steep increase in anti-Asian incidents around the U.S.

By Gina Tron

While the motive behind a series of shootings in Georgia, in which Asian women appear to have been the primary victims, hasn't been established, the attacks come at a time in which hate incidents targeting Asian-Americans has soared in the U.S.

A 21-year-old white man named Robert Aaron Long is accused of entering Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in Acworth, located in suburban Atlanta, and shooting five people, four of them fatally. About an hour later, three women were shot to death at Gold Spa in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. Another woman was found shot to death at Aromatherapy Spa, located just across the street from Gold Spa.

Six of the eight victims killed were of Asian descent, and seven were women, authorities said. The demographic profile of the victims was unnervingly apparent.

“To all the Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists logging on/showing up to work this morning, feeling shook, horrified, exhausted and invisible, I see you and you’re not alone,” Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee tweeted on Wednesday morning.

There has been a clear escalation in attacks against Asian-Americans recently. A new study, conducted by Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate shows that Asian-Americans were targeted in around 3,800 hate incidents in the past year alone. Just one year prior, the nonprofit recorded about 2,800 such incidents, meaning there's been a more than 25% increase over the past 12 months. Women were victimized the most, making up 68% of the most recent incidents.

“There is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets,” Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, told NBC News.

Recent attacks against Asian-Americans have making headlines, prompting prominent voices to speak out against the hate.

In February, actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in an attack on a 91-year-old Asian American man in California.

“The number of hate crimes against Asian Americans continues to skyrocket, despite our repeated pleas for help. The crimes are too often ignored and even excused,” Kim wrote on Instagram. 

Following Tuesday's shootings, Kim tweeted, "The race of the person committing the crime matters less than the simple fact that if you act with hate in your heart, you are part of the problem. And to those with the power to help and yet sit idly by, your silence is complicity. #StopAsianHate."

Actor Olivia Munn posted a statement back in February about the ongoing hate crimes against Asian Americans on her Instagram, noting she was finding herself "at a loss for words at the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes." She had rallied help from fans to help her identify a suspect who attacked a friend's mom, an Asian woman, on a New York street.

The Stop AAPI study reveals that more than a third of discrimination incidents occurred at businesses. About one fourth of incidents took place on public streets.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of the nonprofit AAPI Data, which publishes demographic data and policy research regarding Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, told NBC News that the apparent rise in hate crimes can not be solely explained by anti-Asian sentiment stoked during the pandemic.

“There’s a complex variety of factors, but the fundamental reality is that there's an increase in the number of Asian Americans who feel unsafe,” he said.

But the rise does coincide, at least anecdotally, with rhetoric playing up the coronavirus pandemic's link to China where it was first observed on a large scale toward the end of 2019. Former President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus."

As the pandemic was kicking off April, three members of an Asian-American family — including two children, ages 2 and 6 — were stabbed inside a Texas Sam's Club and the suspect admitted he did so because they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus,” according to an FBI report obtained by ABC News.

Last year NBC News reported on an increase in bullying which targeted Asian Americans, in which COVID-19 was consistently referenced. For instance, it detailed how a 14-year-old student in Texas reported being bullied by other teens, who pretended to cough on him while yelling, "Ching chong! You have Chinese virus!"

Authorities on Wednesday said the suspect told investigators he had a "sex addiction" and targeted the massage parlors to eliminate temptation, according to the Associated Press. Following that, Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen said it appeared the attack represented the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia.”

As a response to Tuesday evening’s shootings, the New York Police Department announced that they will deploy officers to Asian communities in the city, their counterterrorism department tweeted.

“While there is no known nexus to #NYC we will be deploying assets to our great Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution,” they wrote.

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