Atlanta Spa Shootings
On Tuesday, March 16th, the nation was swept by yet another mass shooting. This particular shooting left a total of eight people dead in three different spas. Since six of the eight deceased were Asian-Americans, it is speculated that the shooting could be motivated in hate. However, there has been reluctance in classifying the Atlanta spa shootings as a hate crime due to the fact that two of the victims were white, and the sole survivor is Hispanic.
The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, provided a possible motive when questioned by police upon arrest. He claimed that his motive was to eliminate the spa workers because they represented a sexual temptation that he could not knock. This ‘temptation’ is rooted in the controversial Asian-American massage industry in the United States wherein men receive massages followed by ‘happy endings,’ or, sexual favors. Police are reluctant to accept this as a motive, though, as it is far too early, says Atlanta Police Chief, Rodney Bryant. When questioned, Long confessed to officers that after the shootings, he was headed to Florida to ‘to do more acts.’ Long was chased by police until his SUV lost control and he was taken into custody.
The victims of the Atlanta spa shootings were: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon C. Park, Hyun J. Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong A. Yue. The deaths of these individuals come at a time where Asian-Americans are constantly on edge, where this particular community is often targeted and harassed by others due to the fact that the ongoing pandemic has roots in China. The Asian-American community has been living in fear since the start of the pandemic, which they are accused of starting, and their fear has since been amplified in the result of the Atlanta spa shootings. President Biden and Vice President Harris have spoken out against the shootings, expressing their support for the Asian community in the United States, and encouraging the country to stand in solidarity with their Asian neighbors and friends. The two are set to visit Atlanta in the next few days.
Since the shootings, security footage of the suspect in the parking lot of one of the spas has been released. Nothing too jarring is depicted in the footage; Robert Aaron Long is seen parking and emerging from his Hyuandi prior to the shooting. The church that his family has been a member of for years, Crabapple First Baptist Church, has disowned the suspect and publicly denounced his actions. Currently, authorities are in the midst of investigating the shootings, and are keeping Long in custody. Long is being charged with one count of aggravated assault, one count of attempted murder, four counts of murder with malice, four counts of murder, and five counts of using a firearm while committing a felony.
Many Americans are baffled by the resistance of everyone to label Long’s actions as a hate crime. Considering the racial makeup of the victims, as well as the fact that six of them were Asian women, people are puzzled how the shooting could be regarded as anything but a hate crime. Under Georgia law, ‘sex’ is a category classified under hate crimes, so if Long’s motive is true, then the shootings could certainly be classified as a hate crime. Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms has expressed her opinions on the shootings being classified as a hate crime. Lance Bottoms believes that the shootings were more than likely a hate crime, and urges the crime to be regarded in such a fashion.
During this time of unease, please stand by your Asian friends. The Asian community needs support now more than ever, and it is important that you do all that you can to let them know that you are an ally, that you will fight for them. Even if the actions of Robert Aaron Long are not charged as a hate crime, we need to let our Asian peers know that they are safe with us, they are safe on our campus — that we love them and cherish their lives.