'The hate needs to stop': NC Asian community uneasy on anniversary of Atlanta spa shootings

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- One year after the Atlanta spa killings, emotions are still raw in North Carolina's Asian community. For Durham teacher Bonnie Wang, it all feels like yesterday.

" It's hard to be confident and proud in front of my students. I represent my culture and present it to my students," said Wang. "I remember there was a moment that really hit me heavily. My voice changed and I couldn't continue teaching."

A shooting spree at three spas in Metro Atlanta left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian women. The news was so heavy for Wong that she ended class early. This tragedy happened at a time where there was already a heightened sense of fear in the Asian community.

"COVID-19 is a magnifier that shows us what's happening. It gives some people the courage to show off their privilege and stereotypes and bias," said Wang.

According to AAPI Hate, from March of 2020 to December of 2021 there were 10,905 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islanders reported across the country. National trends show Chinese Americans report the most hate incidents of all ethnic groups. Women make up sixty one percent of those reports, which mostly happen in public spaces.

Police say the gunmen in the Atlanta shootings told them he had a sexual addiction and his reason for the shootings was to eliminate temptation.

"Even from the Silent Film era to classic Hollywood, if you saw an Asian actress, she was either a temptress or downtrodden sad girl who needed to be rescued," said Duke University Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Professor Eileen Chow.

She calls popular culture the blame. According to Chow, these stereotypes are rooted in discriminatory legislation, like the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Korean and Vietnam Wars played a role in this too.

"Women who were legally brought back as brides by GI's were then viewed as weird foreigners," said Chow.

It's that perception that she says has put the Asian community at risk. The Atlanta spa shootings highlighted an issue they say has existed for years.

"The hate needs to stop," said Wang.
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