New Paltz Responds to Recent AAPI Hate Crimes

AAPI community members and allies gathered at Hasbrouck Park to protest anti-Asian hate crimes and attend a vigil for the six Asian women killed in Georgia. Photo by Nikki Donohue

A shooting in Georgia left eight people dead, including six Asian women on Tuesday, March 16.

Within 45 minutes, the shooter murdered the eight victims, some of whose families want them to remain unidentified, according to Stop AAPI Hate. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30, sustained non-life-threatening injuries from the shooting there is a GoFundMe to help pay for his medical care.  

The shooting occurred at Yong’s Asian Massage, Aromatherapy Spa and Gold Spa. 

Authorities are hesitant to call this act a hate crime. They have, though, linked the shooting to the shooter’s sex addiction, saying that he intended to “eliminate a temptation,” according to Yahoo News

However, this shooting occurred amidst a surge in anti-Asian crimes. Reports of anti-Asian violence rose by 149% in “major” U.S. cities while overall hate crimes fell by 7% last year, according to a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Many view the murders of the six Asian spa workers as an obvious hate crime because the U.S. has a long-standing practice of fetishizing Asian women. To the shooter, these women were boiled down to a temptation that he must get rid of.

Although the U.S. has a long history of being racist towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), the coronavirus and former President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric towards the virus is also to blame for the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes.  

“I think that the coronavirus and the way it has been racialized by our previous administration has aggravated and given an alibi to [the] racism that is always not quite gone but now surging forth, “Anne A. Cheng, a comparative race scholar and professor at Princeton University told CBS News.

On Saturday, March 27, New Paltz community members organized a march in solidarity with the AAPI community from Hasbrouck Park Playground to the Carmine Liberta bridge hosted by the New Paltz Socialists. 

“We wanted to show the strength of the Asian diaspora and particularly the Korean people who historically, have suffered much at the hands of white supremacy,” the New Paltz Socialists wrote in a statement to The Oracle.

Members of the AAPI community and allies gathered in the park at 3 p.m. and listened to speeches from Katari Sisa of the New Paltz Socialists and Black Hammer; Narelys X, an independent Hispanic Asian activist; Jade Wong and Kaitlyn Feliciano of the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance (or APISA for short); and Bennett, whose last name wasn’t shared to those who attended the protest.

On Facebook, some AAPI allies expressed that they didn’t feel comfortable attending the event because of Sisa’s affiliation with Black Hammer. Black Hammer’s Commander-in-Chief Gazi Kodzo tweeted in April 2020 that “as a Black child in America all throughout school I was propagandized to mourn a Becky,” referring to Anne Frank. The organization also acknowledged  and supported the tweets from Kodzo in a post, signing-off with “F*ck Anne Frank” and “#2BFrank.”

During their speech, X listed some anti-Asian hate crimes throughout history in their speech. They pointed out the Chinese Massacre of 1871, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Japanese internment camps of World War II, the murder of Vincent Chin, the murder of Angelo Quinto and the most recent spa shooting. 

“What a lot of people don’t know is that we have a long history of these hate crimes,” X said. “Last year there were about 3,8oo Asian hate crimes only reported. So, I want you to think about how many weren’t reported.”

X emphasized that racism towards Asian Americans began long before the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump only amplified that rhetoric. 

Wong and Feliciano of APISA discussed the fetishization of Asian women that ultimately led to the deaths of the six Asian women on March 16. 

“The horrific Atlanta spa shooting was reduced down to the perpetrator eliminating a temptation for a sexual addiction,” Wong said. “ White America views the Asian body as exotic and foreign and Asian women are only there for desire under the white man.” 

Wong also pointed out that there is a lack of solidarity for the Asian community on the SUNY New Paltz campus.

“All they did was send out a reactionary email that said ‘hey, we acknowledge there’s racism against Asian Americans but we’re not doing anything about it,’” Wong said. “That’s f*cked up, we’re constantly ignored, we’re constantly not being heard.”

APISA is the only Asian representing club at SUNY New Paltz.

The speeches before the march also discussed the model minority myth, which is based on the stereotype that Asians are more successful, intelligent and submissive compared to other POC. The model minority myth allows for Asian suffering in the U.S. to be overlooked and ignored while oppressing Black Americans and other POC by implying that racism doesn’t exist. “We have been told Asian people don’t speak up, but when we do we are silenced,” X said.

X also pointed out that “some people are only #antiAsianhate” so they can be anti-Black and the fact that there are more videos of Black teenagers pushing Asian elders is a tactic to divide people of color (POC). A large message of the march was the need for solidarity among POC against white supremacy. 

“White supremacy knows that when oppressed communities unite, that we become a threat to white supremacy,” X said. “That scares them.”

After the march, the protesters returned to the park for a vigil to mourn the loss of the six women killed in the shooting. 

About Nikki Donohue 88 Articles
Nikki Donohue is a fourth-year double major in history and journalism. This is her sixth semester with The Oracle. She has worked as a News Copy Editor and an Assistant Copy Editor.