‘It can’t continue’: Local Asian American groups rally against recent violence

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SAN DIEGO — Asian American leaders in San Diego are reacting to this week’s deadly shootings in Atlanta with weary outrage after a year that’s seen rising incidents of violence and racism against their communities.

“Very angry, with some choice words that go along with that,” said JoAnn Fields with the Asian Pacific Islander Iniative and Filipino Resource Center, of how she’s feeling this week. “But we can’t remain angry. We have to redirect that energy to something that’s productive. So we need to let our decision-makers, elected officials know that this is happening in our community. That it can’t continue.”

Fields joins other San Diego Asian American community leaders in condemning what officials describe as rising anti-Asian sentiment following the outbreak of the pandemic. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office says reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans have escalated since COVID-19 took hold in the U.S.

The violence in Atlanta has raised public accusations that it, too, was racially motivated, given Asian-owned businesses were targeted by a white man and six of the eight people killed were Asian women. While the suspect, according to police, appeared to blame his actions on a “sex addiction,” skeptical scholars and advocates view the case as more likely a combination of a variety of stigmas against marginalized communities.

“There’s this assumption that all these massage parlor workers are sex workers. That may or may not be the case,” Esther Kao, an organizer with New York-based Red Canary Song, a group of Asian and Asian American sex workers and allies that does outreach to massage parlors, told the Associated Press. “The majority of massage parlors are licensed businesses that also provide professional, non-sexual massages.”

“There’s this assumption of sexuality and fetishization of Asian women’s bodies that is unique to this kind of crime,” she said.

Locally, community organizers say it will take elected officials and average residents alike to stand up to the violence.

“The San Diego Asian Pacific Islander (API) Coalition calls on our local and national leaders to condemn the anti-API violence and to actively find solutions to shield our community from further hate and violence,” the organization wrote. “We call on San Diegans to stand united against all forms of hate and violence towards marginalized communities.”

The DA’s office encourages people to report these crimes if they see them or experience them. They can be contacted directly at hatecrimes@sdcda.org or by calling 619-515-8805.

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