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China ‘deeply concerned’ about anti-Asian violence in US

The New York Times

The Growing Power of Asian-Americans in Georgia Now Comes With Fear

When Alex Wan moved to Atlanta in 1971, he was the only student of Asian descent in his class. His grandmother grew Chinese cabbage and melons in their garden because there was nowhere close to buy them. There was no Chinese church, so services were held in people’s homes. Over the years, Asian immigrants and their children have settled not only in the city of Atlanta, but in bustling enclaves outside. The populations of nearby Duluth and Johns Creek, both upscale suburbs, are now about a quarter Asian. Wan, whose parents came to the United States from Taiwan in the late 1960s, went on to become the first person of Asian descent elected to the Atlanta City Council. The speed and scale of that change is a story of American success: immigrants starting businesses, building churches, sending their children to school and, eventually, gaining power through political representation. But now, along with success and visibility has come something else — fear. Amid a rising tide of anti-Asian violence nationally, the shooting death of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, has shaken Asians in Atlanta like nothing in his memory. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “Whatever the justification was, the fact is, it was Asian women who were killed,” said Wan, who is 53. He said one of the shooting sites was less than a mile from his house. “Everything that’s been swirling around, all this anti-Asian sentiment has come to a head with the worst possible thing — murders.” He added: “The Asian population has become a very easy and very visible target.” The fear, of course, has radiated far beyond Atlanta. Nearly 3,800 hate incidents, running the gamut from name calling to physical assaults were reported against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide over the last year, according to Stop AAPI Hate. The report was released the same day that eight people, six of them of Asian descent, were fatally shot at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. Stop AAPI Hate called the shootings “an unspeakable tragedy” for the victims’ families and an Asian American community that has “been reeling from high levels of racist attacks.” It said the shootings “will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian American community continues to endure.” Outrage and anguish with the killings reverberated from the nation’s capital to the West Coast. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus said the group was “horrified by the news coming out of GA at a time when we’re already seeing a spike in anti-Asian violence. Although details are still unfolding, at least half the victims appear to be Asian American women. Our hearts go out to the victims & their families.” Max Leung, the founder of a group called the SF Peace Collective, which patrols streets in San Francisco to protect Asian communities from violence, acknowledged that not all facts are known about the motivation of the Georgia shooting, but said: “At the end of the day, regardless of what he says his motives were, Asian Americans are being attacked and killed for many reasons right now. It’s an epidemic. And it’s on the rise.” Asians represent a majority of the increase in foreign-born people in the United States since 2010, and now make up about 6% of the American population, up from about 2% in 1980, according to William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution. People of Asian descent in the United States come from dozens of countries, but according to Pew, the largest shares come from just six: China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. In Georgia, Asians are more than 4% of the population, up from less than half a percent in 1980. In Atlanta, as nationwide, they are part of a diverse agglomeration of people with distinct languages, histories and cultures rather than a homogeneous grouping. The four most numerous groups in Georgia are from India, Vietnam, China and Korea, according to Frey. Similarly, the locales of the killings on Tuesday reflect the integration of Asians into non-Asian communities around Atlanta. None took place in areas with a particular ethnic profile. Cherokee County, where the first four deaths occurred is an exurban area north of Atlanta where only 2% of the population is Asian. The spa was in a strip mall, wedged between a beauty salon and a clothing boutique run by a Latina woman. The shootings in the city of Atlanta took place in a commercial area with a long history of adult businesses, novelty stores and strip clubs. Still, Asians have quietly become a political and cultural force around Atlanta over the past few decades. That played out first and most conspicuously on the Buford Highway, a stretch of modest strip malls and parking lots that begins just north of Midtown Atlanta and continues northeast through the city and into nearby suburbs. The area is studded with bustling restaurants serving Vietnamese pho, Chinese dim sum and Korean barbecue. Over the years, as Asian Americans moved into Atlanta’s suburbs and exurbs, new neighborhoods sprang up and culture spread. Sarah Park helped start a food tour of new Korean enclaves called Seoul of the South, in her job promoting tourism and conventions in Gwinnett County, where 12% of the population is of Asian heritage. “Atlanta’s Korean food scene is comparable to New York and Los Angeles,” she said. “We have restaurants with our grandmothers’ cooking. But we also made a good transition to the next generation of chefs.” The growth of Asian American communities around Atlanta has only recently translated to significant political power. There are now six Asian Americans in the state Legislature, including Michelle Au, a Chinese American doctor who was elected to the state Senate as a Democrat last year. There were none two decades ago. The new representation will be especially important given the anti-Asian incidents, particularly Tuesday’s shootings, said Cam Ashling, a Democratic activist who helped with an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort in one of the only tightly contested House seats in the nation that Democrats flipped last year — Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. “We just came off all this organizing and we all are very connected to each other,” said Ashling, 40, who came to Georgia in 1988 as a refugee from Vietnam. “We’ve been texting each other all night and this morning. I’ve got a meeting at my house tonight.” She said activists were preparing to push their newly elected representatives to enact protections and take other action. “We need the people whom we spent all this time and energy electing to stand up to the racism, not just put out a statement,” she said. Asian immigrants are more educated, on average in the country, than native-born Americans, but Ashling’s parents were working class. She remembers one pho restaurant when they arrived in the 1980s, but her parents, a forklift operator and a worker in a plastic foam cup factory, rarely went, because they had neither the money nor time off from working. “My parents made like $5 and $7 an hour,” Ashling said. “They were not the fancy Asians who are now loaded.” Today, her mother, 69, sings in the choir at a large Vietnamese Catholic church, which has a school where children learn Vietnamese. Still, Asian immigrants, both in recent decades and now, have generally been highly educated, often working as doctors, professors and engineers. Frey of Brookings said about 45% of all immigrants aged 25 and older who came between 2010 and 2019 were college graduates, compared to about a third among the native-born population. Baoky Vu, who lives in suburban DeKalb County and is a former commissioner to George W. Bush’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said the children of Asian immigrants, now reaching their 30s and 40s, were more politically engaged than their immigrant parents, who were often focused on keeping a small business afloat and children fed. “The attitude has been, it’s not my problem so I don’t have to worry about it,” said Vu, who came from Vietnam in the 1970s. But he said younger Asian Americans are different, volunteering in political campaigns, running for public office and starting nonprofit groups focused on public affairs. That evolution is particularly important given the current wave of tensions and unease, he said. “You can’t just cower in fear,” he said. “You have to stand up for justice. This is not just an Asian American problem. This is an American problem.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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