Aftermath of Atlanta-area shootings


Sophie Leong

After the Atlanta-area shootings, Junior Sophie Leong posted a drawing she made featuring Asians she looks up to (above) to help spread awareness on hate crimes and encourage people to share their stories.

   Tuesday, March 16, a man named Robert Aaron Long, 21, suspected of killing eight people in Atlanta-area spas, was arrested. Six of those killed were Asian women, four of them being South Korean. The motive is not certain, but the attacks have been attributed to the victims’ ethnicities.

   That Tuesday, shortly before 5 p.m. the first shooting occurred at Youngs Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia. Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44, were all killed. Within the hour, four more were killed. Three were at the Gold Massage Spa and one was at the Aroma Therapy Spa, according to authorities. The victims were Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63. 

   Reports of the shootings in Atlanta led to a social media outcry, with many people posting and reposting information regarding how to report hate crimes and support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). The hashtag #stopasianhate has accumulated over 223,000 posts on Instagram. 

   One of these posts was created by  Junior Sophie Leong. She posted a drawing she made featuring Asians she looks up to (above) to help spread awareness on hate crimes and encourage people to share their stories.

   “I think because of the recent events, I have become more aware and outspoken about the issue. When I first read the news, I was so scared and nervous. Scared for the safety of my family, nervous for how the world would take this, and of course sad for the lives lost that day. But because of those emotions, I really wanted to speak up about it to spread information, something I have never done before,” said Leong.

  Leong said she has been “extremely lucky,” as she has only been discriminated against or teased once or twice because of her race. “I’m thankful that Sycamore High School has been able to create a safe environment for Asian Americans and other races too,” said Leong. She has, however, heard stories from her friends of getting teased by middle school children. 

   When asked if Leong was shocked about the news of the Atlanta shootings, she said, “Maybe we should have expected it? With the increasing xenophobia this past year, maybe we should have taken action earlier? To prevent everything from blowing up?” 

   She was “more shocked” by the way the media handled it, saying “the main topic [of the stories] was whether or not it was actually an Anti-Asian hate crime. Regardless of his motive, eight people still died that day, six of them were Asian, and Anti-Asian hate is still rising exponentially.” 

   According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSUSB), in 2020, Anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police increased by 145%, while overall hate crime drops 6%. Some suspect this to be due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, leading to more discrimination against Asians. 

   The takeaway Leong wants people to have is a sense of understanding and support for their AAPI friends and family. “It isn’t easy for many of us to speak. Because of the values that we grew up with, a lot of AAPI struggle to talk to others about racism and other problems…If you know Asian Americans in your life, find the time to just be present for them. Listen and understand their emotions and grievances without adding too much of your own opinion. The only way to eliminate racism in this country is to work together.