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Lunar New Year Mass Shooting a Horrific Reminder of Dangerous AAPI Hate

A man holding Stop Asian Hate sign

This is a developing news story and has been updated with new information as it has become available. Last update: January 22, 2023, 12:57PM EST.

At 10:22 PM local time on Saturday, January 21, a shooting occurred on the first day of a Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park, California. At this time of writing, 10 people were killed, with another 10 wounded. The suspect is still at large and has been identified by police as an Asian man.

A second incident occurred, hours later, about two miles away, at the Lai Lai Ballroom and Studio in neighboring Alhambra. Police are currently investigating whether the two incidents are connected. There were reportedly no casualties in the Alhambra incident, and details are still scarce.

Monterey Park’s Lunar New Year Festival, which was supposed to be a two-day event, has been cancelled for Sunday. This is, of course, the best move for the safety of the community at this time. But it is infuriating how violent outbursts affect people’s ability to feel comfortable holding and attending public celebrations.

Monterey Park, which is in the western San Gabriel Valley and therefore part of the greater Los Angeles area, has a population consisting of 65% people of Asian descent. The shooting has not been officially called a hate crime. Considering the venue and town chosen by the shooter, it initially seemed likely that this shooting was targeted and stemmed from AAPI hate. Even if it was not (the police now report that the current suspect is an “Asian male”), the initial public and community response tells you all you need to know about how common (and violent) AAPI hate has become in this country.

AAPI hate crimes—which, unfortunately, can often be violent—have spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As NPR’s Juliana Kim notes in response to this shooting:

Though local authorities in Monterey Park have not yet identified the race of the victims or the suspect’s possible motive, the shooting’s proximity to Asian-owned homes and businesses eerily resemble the horrific crimes involving Asian Americans in recent years.

Violence against Asian American community members has been a long concern, but since the pandemic, attacks have soared. The coalition Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 11,500 racially-motivated incidents between March 2020 and March 2022. Attacks most commonly occurred on public streets and inside businesses, including the 2021 attack on three spas in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent.

NPR

As Kim says, there is unfortunately a long history of AAPI hate in the USA. It’s yet another effect of the cancer of white supremacy this country has failed to fully grapple with since its founding. But in 16 major US cities, hate crimes targeting members of the AAPI community rose 150% in 2020.

No one should wait until things get “worse” to do something. And considering our politicians’ obstinate inaction on gun violence, it appears the American Way is often to do nothing concrete at all. Biden has made a statement that he’s “praying” for the victims—thoughts and prayers, with no action. This, by the way, is the 33rd shooting this year. It’s January 22nd.

So fuck that. Find a way to do something. If, like me, you are white, there are absolutely things you can do: donate, check in with friends (if appropriate, but for the love of god give people space if they want space), talk with your own family members about racism, show up at protests, read articles / books by and listen to the AAPI community, support local businesses owned by members of the AAPI community, make sure you’re electing officials who stand up against lax gun policies and for minority communities. To name a few possibilities.

Today, Sunday the 22nd, is Lunar New Year. It’s the Year Of The Rabbit! (Or of the cat, for those of Vietnamese descent. Cats!) I know it might be hard given this news today, but I hope everyone who celebrates has an absolutely wonderful day and wonderful year.

(Featured image: Getty Images)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.