HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Leaders in the Asian American community are saying enough is enough after six of the eight victims in the Atlanta-area spa shooting spree were Asian women.
Many people are holding vigils all across the country and calling for an end to the violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
On Saturday afternoon, AAPI groups hosted a rally at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids to honor those killed in Georgia and call for an end to discrimination. They carried signs that read “Stop Asian Hate,” “I am not a virus,” and “We deserve to be safe.”
“I guess the cynical part of me thought no one would show because no one cares about us. But it’s heartwarming that people came, especially folks from other disenfranchised communities,” Samantha Suarez, the marketing director for the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation, said.
The event ended with a moment of silence for those killed in Georgia.
“We are reaching a breaking point,” Jordan VanHemert, a music professor for Hope College in Holland, told News 8 in a separate Zoom interview.
VanHemert said it hasn’t just been a tough week but also a tough year for Asian Americans.
“When you have an escalation like this, as we’ve seen in the recent months, and then just a tragedy like the one that happened in Atlanta, it just makes things that much harder,” VanHemert said.
VanHemert says the Atlanta shooting has taken a toll on his community’s mental health.
“This week has been tough. It’s been really difficult. We need to work on dismantling the systems that are in place that made these tragedies possible,” VanHemert said.
New research by the Asian American-Pacific Islander advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate shows that there were roughly 3,800 Asian American hate incidents this past year during the pandemic. The number is significantly higher than the year before when there were 2,600. Sixty-eight percent of the crimes targeted Asian women.
“I think for a year straight, we have had the Asian American and Asian community saying this is a problem,” VanHemert said.
At the Grand Rapids rally, speakers shared their stories of racism in West Michigan.
“For our children, for them to see we are making these movements, taking a stand, expressing ourselves, that is far too important, especially now,” Ace Marasigan, founder and executive director of the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Foundation, said.
VenHemert said it’s important that people support Asian Americans right now by speaking up.
“The worst thing that anybody could do is be silent. The worst thing that anybody could do is be a bystander. What we need right now is we need people to make some noise,” VanHemert said.