A candlelight vigil is held for the eight victims killed by a lone gunman in Atlanta on March 16, 2021. Charles Fox/The Inquirer

A mass shooting in Atlanta leaves six Korean women and two other Asian spa workers dead

Saddleback College flew its flags at half-mast on Monday, March 22, along with the rest of the United States, to honor the eight victims in Atlanta who were killed on March 16 by lone gunman Robert Aaron Long. 

The President of Saddleback College, Elliot Stern, sent out an email addressing the remembrance of victims of anti-Asian violence.

“I know that I speak for our campus in condemning the rising tide of discriminatory acts,  including hate violence, against Asian-Americans, Asians and Pacific-Islanders in our country and in our own community,” Stern said.

Mission Viejo is 10% Asian-American, with businesses owned at about the same percentage. Nearly 2 million businesses across the United States are Asian-owned.

Andrea’s Liquor store at the corner of Crown Valley Pkwy and Marguerite in Mission Viejo has been in business for several decades. Martha Phillips/Lariat

Alex Vong, originally from Cambodia, is the owner of Andrea’s Liquor in Mission Viejo. He had strong feelings about this hate crime.

“It is a travesty what happened in Georgia to those women,” Vong said. “I know this area is generally a safe area, but my 13-year-old son was beat up on the bridge here on Crown Valley last year. I have to stay vigilant.”

Young Suk is a Korean woman who owns Parkway cleaners at the corner of Crown Valley and Marguerite. She and her husband have owned this business for over 25 years.

“Yes, yes. I am not afraid of anything here,” Suk said. “This is a safe place.”

E-Cig City opened its doors in 2017 and is in the same shopping plaza as Andrea’s Liquor and Parkway Dry Cleaners. Jamie Pierson is one of the sales personnel at E-Cig City. He is Korean and Hispanic and has followed the #StopAsianHate movement since before this last mass shooting in Atlanta.

“Asians need to find their own voice – unadulterated by the opinions of other groups,” Pierson said. “The reason why everyone else speaks for us is because we do not speak for ourselves.”

Pierson is a Saddleback College alumni and currently attends the University of California, Riverside as a political science major. He was born in Torrance, California, and lived in Riverside before he moved to Mission Viejo. He is a second-generation Asian-American and is more vocal than his parents.

“I think it’s a shame that all of the media attention these days focuses on white supremacy being the cause of all the hatred and racism,” Pierson said. “Anti-Asian sentiments are just as old as when this country was founded and the railroads were built on the backs of Chinese immigrants. People don’t discuss the Japanese internment camps during World War II and the confusion that all Asians are the same.”

In Orange County, 21.7% of Asians make up the total population, according to the Census Bureau. Garden Grove is known by locals as “Koreatown” in Orange County with a host of nearby Asian areas, such as “Little Saigon,” and neighboring cities like Fountain Valley and Westminster cater to Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino and Japanese residents. 

“Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans have been forced to endure demeaning and disgusting acts of bigotry and hate, consisting of everything from verbal assaults to physical attacks,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) of the House of Rep. said in a statement following the passage of her resolution 234-163 on Sept 17, 2020.

Hate crimes against Asian-Americans rose 1,900% from January last year to this Chinese New Year on Feb. 12. Stop AAPI reported 3,800 hate crime incidents in the first year of the pandemic.

#StopAsianHate is not a new movement but in light of recent violence, it has gained momentum and media attention. Asians are just beginning to find their voice on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Sandra Oh has been a voice for Asian-Americans and has spoken out against violence.

“For many of us in our community, this is the first time we are even able to voice our fear and our anger, and I really am so grateful to everyone willing to listen.”“I am proud to be Asian,” she says. “We belong here.” – Sandra Oh#StopAsianHate#StopAAPIHate pic.twitter.com/KAWewMlOLM

— best of sandra oh (@thebestofoh) March 20, 2021