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‘We’re Not Immune To It’: Utah’s Asian American Community Reacts To Atlanta Shooting

Group of Asian demonstrators protesting in the city.
The Utah Asian American and Pacific Islander community condemned the Tuesday night shootings in Atlanta. Eight people were killed, six were Asian women. Local leaders from the community said these types of incidents can be traced back to when the pandemic first started.

On Tuesday night, eight people were killed in a series of spa shootings around Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian women. The suspect, a 21-year-old white male, has been arrested and charged with eight counts of murder.

“As soon as I saw the news, my heart sank,” said Emilio Manuel Camu with OCA Asian Pacific Islander American Advocates Utah chapter.

Camu said the past year has been difficult enough for the Asian American community because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We're still reeling from different deaths here in Utah, in our local community,” Camu said. “People who have been involved with organizations who passed away all of a sudden as well. And it's just — it's a lot to take in. But we are not stopping.

Over the past year, nearly 3,800 incidents across the country were reported to the non-profit group Stop AAPI Hate. Those are events of harassment or discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

While Utah wasn’t listed as a top state for reports of hate crimes, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, said it doesn’t mean incidents of Anti-Asian hate don’t happen here.

“We’re not immune to it,” Iwamoto said. “We don’t have statistical reports of it but a lot of people are scared to come forward. That's very important — that we make sure that people come forward and report these things so that we can address it.”

Camu said attacks against the Asian American community are nothing new, and people need to learn the history of how they have been treated in this country.

“Our community has been living in fear,” he said. “But we continue to go to work because we have to feed our people.”

Camu said if people want to help, they should educate themselves about the differences within the community and realize Asian Americans are not monolithic. Iwamoto agrees.

“People just think sometimes, ‘Oh, Japanese Americans are doing well or Chinese Americans are doing well,’” Iwamoto said. “But we don't see that Asian Americans include Vietnamese, Somalians [and] Koreans. There are so many groups and we don't recognize that because there are disparities within the Asian American community.

Local leaders from the community released a joint statement Tuesday condemning the acts of violence that took place in Atlanta. They said these types of incidents can be traced back to when the pandemic first started.

“Divisive rhetoric, such as describing the Coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” has increased acts of hate against members of the AA&PI community broadly,” the statement reads. “We urge all Utahns to come together, to call out hateful rhetoric and to support one another as we get through this challenging time. Hate does not have a place in our community, but your safety and security does. You are not alone.”

The Asian Association of Utah, Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce, Chinatown Cultural Center and Chinese Railroad Worker Descendants Association were just some of the organizations that signed on to the letter.

Updated: March 17, 2021 at 6:46 PM MDT
This story was updated to include the full name of the OCA Utah chapter.
Ross Terrell is the managing editor at KUER.
Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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