Opinion: Preventing Hate, A Cherokee County native speaks out

Opinion%3A+Preventing+Hate%2C+A+Cherokee+County+native+speaks+out

Ella Adams

It seems that every mass shooting in the U.S. follows the same chain of events: shooting, media blitz, candlelit vigils, politicians on cable news promising change they will never deliver and those unaffected moving on a few weeks later. It’s hard not to become desensitized when gun violence is so frequent. The March 16 Atlanta-area shootings are one of the most recent senseless acts of violence, but these shootings weren’t random. The shooter specifically targeted his victims based on their gender and race. Of course, hate crimes aren’t unheard of in the U.S. but this shooting is a symptom of a much larger problem: the escalation of racism and violence against Asian Americans. 

I’m from Cherokee County, Georgia, the location of the first shooting. When I heard about the shootings, I was angry, embarrassed and heartbroken but not surprised. Casual racism is common in a place like Cherokee County. In March 2020, Captain Jay Baker, the former spokesman for the county Sheriff’s Office, promoted t-shirts reading “COVID-19 imported virus from Chy-na” on his Facebook page. This is the casual racism that goes on every day not only in Cherokee County but in counties all over the country. Anti-Asian rhetoric creates an environment for more extreme forms of racism to occur. Yes, the March 16 shootings were a result of one hate-filled individual, but he was enabled by a combination of irresponsible gun laws, sexism and racism against Asian women that escalated during the past year. The hesitation to label these murders a hate crime is deeply insulting to the victims. Even if these attacks weren’t racially motivated, which they were, they were motivated by misogyny. The shooter claimed the attacks weren’t racially motivated but rather a result of his sex addiction. But the shooter doesn’t get to define his crimes and how they affect the people he targeted. He attacked Asian-owned businesses and Asian women in particular. This is a hate crime, regardless of law enforcements, and the shooter’s, refusal to label it as such . 

These tragedies happened in my hometown. Many of the people who died were my neighbors. These attacks weren’t far away tragedies. Many of our Asian American friends, peers, neighbors and coworkers have been affected by this violence. Physical distance doesn’t matter when people that look like you are being murdered for their heritage all across the nation. Hate crimes have rocketed nearly 150% over the last year in 16 major U.S. cities. It’s not like there weren’t red flags. Asian Americans have been attacked and scapegoated by prominent political figures on the right including the former President. People in power spewing xenophobic and racist remarks encourages prejudice. Anything other than a firm denouncement of hate is gross negligence.

We are not helpless and can all take an active role in preventing hate and violence against Asian Americans. We can start by calling out casual racism and pushing our legislators to support common-sense gun legislation. Especially in areas where Asians are in the minority, like Cherokee County and Boone, it’s crucial to listen to what these communities have been saying. Hate must be taken seriously before it has the chance to turn deadly.