'We will not normalize this': Woman who moved to North Carolina from West Coast reflects on recent violence in Asian American community

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Tammie Zhao moved from Seattle, Washington to Raleigh last summer after wanting a change in scenery.

"West Coast has more Asians," said Zhao. "So it's been hard to find a lot of Chinese or Asian food here."

But it hasn't just been the cuisine that she is getting accustomed to. The Gen Z'er also quickly learned of the political differences between the Pacific Northwest and North Carolina.

"This homogenous white populations do make me feel a certain type of way," Zhao told ABC11.

Her experiences between her home state of Oregon, Washington State, North Carolina and of being reminded of her Chinese ethnicity have shaped her into who she is today.

"There have been times when I was called 'chink'," said Zhao. "A lot of times, we don't really think about it. We don't take time to allow ourselves to process it. Because it's not OK. A lot of times it's very violent, even when it's microaggressions and not as blatant as getting punched in the face physically."

Last week, a white man shot and killed eight spa workers, six of whom were of Asian descent, in Atlanta and said his motive was due to eliminating a sexual addiction. The shooter has since been arrested. However, is not facing any hate crime charges at this time.

"If there's no repercussions, it's only teaching people to do what they do," she said. "It's not OK. We will not make it OK. We will not normalize this."

Wake County licensed family and marriage therapist, Jeannie Chang, said it's important for the Asian American community, and others, to be proactive.

"I call it mental health hygiene,: said Chang. "We take care of our physical hygiene really well. But mental health hygiene -- no we address it in a crisis and that should not be the case."

"So many people have experienced talking about being invalidated in their story and as we see more and more of those invalidations, we also just see people kind of regressing or kind of moving into their own corners because they don't feel a sense of community or this allyship that exists," said Zhao.
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