The Tragedy of the Atlanta Shooting: We Cannot Turn a Blind Eye to Racial Hate Crimes

On March 16, 2021, shocking news was reported of a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, that left eight victims in its wake, seven of whom were women and four who were Korean. The Korean women who died that day were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s and were unable to put up a fight during the attack. While investigators were able to arrest a 21-year-old white man on suspicion of murder, they could not ease the pain or bring comfort to the families of the women who were lost. Authorities must conduct a thorough, scientific investigation to prevent anyone from claiming that investigators or police officers are protecting the suspect, and there must be harsh punishment for the killing to prevent similar crimes in the future.

This incident has raised even greater concern precisely because it occurred amid increasing racism and a growing number of racial hate crimes. Less than a week earlier on March 11, an elderly Korean woman in her 80s was beaten unconscious by a homeless woman in her 40s. In just the past year, more than 3,800 cases of hate crimes directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have been reported, considerably higher than previous averages of 100 cases a year. This surge in hate crimes can be traced back to deep-rooted racism in the U.S. as well as former President Donald Trump’s politically motivated flood of hate speech blaming the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for COVID-19.

The United States can no longer ignore the alarmingly high number of hate crimes occurring within its borders. It is a country that has grown alongside its immigrants and developed under a policy of inclusion. Yet, racism has divided the country and torn it apart to the extent that intelligence agencies identify racial extremists as the deadliest threat to the United States at the moment. An institutional change is desperately needed. There must be stricter enforcement of laws meant to prevent and punish racial hate crimes. Unless the American people and its government unite against the hatred brewing in their country, the number of victims will only continue to rise. In addition to my desire for the situation in the United States to improve, I also hope Korea’s diplomatic authorities will place proper importance on and make significant efforts to ensure the safety of the roughly 2.5 million Koreans living in the U.S. and in South Korea.

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