CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This week, the country stood in shock after eight people were killed in a series of shootings at three different spas in the Atlanta area.
The motivation behind the shootings is still under investigation, but the suspect admitted that he planned the shootings, indicating sexual addiction may have played a role in his motive.
But most of the victims were of Asian descent. Authorities say the suspect told them race was not a factor in the killings, but the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has largely cast doubt on that claim. The AAPI community noted they've been blamed for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that increased hate-based attacks against them in the last year are a telling sign.
Nayoung Aimee Kwon, a professor at Duke University, was stunned and grief-stricken by the attacks in Atlanta, but she admitted she feels this was predictable given the context surrounding COVID-19.
“I was in shock and disbelief, grieving, mourning," Kwon said. "This was a long time coming because of the anti-Asian, anti-Chinese political rhetoric. Asians have been used as a scapegoat in the pandemic. Obviously, this is affecting the entire community."
Kwon's statement is backed up by data; a study from the group Stop AAPI Hate reveals that over the last year, nearly 4,000 anti-Asian incidents have been reported across all 50 states. Of those incidents, 68% involved verbal assaults, while 11% were physical attacks.
“It’s been really difficult," Kwon said. "It really makes no sense to peg it on any racial group.”
In the wake of the attacks, the reaction from North Carolina leaders was swift; Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted his condolences and called for unity and an end to anti-Asian actions.
In the Charlotte area, police say they're watching the situation in Atlanta. Lt. Steve Fischbeck with Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD said, so far, anti-Asian crimes haven't been on the rise. However, CMPD is keeping tabs and making sure this doesn't swell.
"We have not seen an increase in the last few months, but that doesn't mean we need to let our guards down," he said. "And that goes for the police department as well as the community. We all need to keep an eye out for each other."