On the eve of the Lunar New Year, 11 people ranging from 57 to 76 years old were killed in a mass shooting at Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a popular ballroom in Monterey Park, California. The majority of the victims were Asian American as the venue was a haven for the prominent Chinese and Asian American community in Monterey Park. While the motive of the shooter is still unknown, he is an older Asian man who was once a regular at the Star Ballroom. Asian Americans have begun to notice that the shooter’s ethnicity has caused some ignorant rebuttals about the severity and the horror of the shooting. It has left many Asians mixed with feelings of sorrow and anger.
Regardless of whether the shooter’s actions constitute a hate crime or not, the violence at an Asian cultural center and the deaths of elders still contribute to the growing violence against Asian Americans. None of us feel relieved because the shooter was Asian — for many, it’s even worse because he chose to commit mass violence against his own community. Any form of violence and hatred towards our community brings feelings of fear and anxiety. For Asian Americans, those feelings have been growing over the past few years.
Even with COVID-19 becoming less of a threat, the rise of these crimes has not stopped. Asian Americans continue to be treated as scapegoats for the global virus, and the hatred doesn’t seem like it will ever stop. While worrying about our own safety, younger Asian Americans have to constantly live in fear of their elders being attacked on their morning walks or trips to the grocery store.
The shooter’s ethnicity shouldn’t have any impact on the perceived severity of his attack.
Shirley Li wrote in the Atlantic about how there is a lot of cognitive dissonance happening due to the shooter’s race. It’s difficult for Asian Americans to have the same attitudes that they would towards previous hate crimes where the shooter was of a different race and had an obvious motive. The outcome of this shooting is being shoved under the rug because it doesn’t classify as a hate crime, but that doesn’t mean that anyone should care any less about it or invalidate the feelings of the Asian community at this time.
The shooter’s ethnicity doesn’t change the fact that we saw our community brutally murdered on Lunar New Year, and it surely doesn’t give us any relief. Asian Americans still saw what could’ve been their own parents and grandparents on the news, just as they did when hate crimes against Asian people were spiking during the pandemic.
Undermining the horror of the attack does nothing to resolve the rising violence in the Asian American community. We should actively be discussing why something like this occurred in the first place and if it’ll happen again. Moving towards preventative or protective solutions for our community is the least we can do to make sure that an event like the Monterey Park shooting never happens again.
Amongst this devastation, the one thing we Asian Americans can do is ensure that the lives lost at Monterey Park are never forgotten. We can refuse to let this incident be simply added to the growing number of mass shootings from the past and from this month alone. We can refuse to allow others to diminish our feelings of sorrow and anger simply because the shooter was one of us.
For everyone else, to be true supporters of the Asian community after this tragic event, be angry and upset. Brushing this off as another bad news day and calling it a “normal” 3”crime rather than one that reveals the increasing violence in the Asian American community does not show solidarity. The lives of loved ones were taken away during a time when they were celebrating a new year. All of us can actively remember them in order to protect others from suffering the same fate.
Skylar Paxton is an Opinion Staff Writer for the winter 2023 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.