In mid-March, six women of Asian descent (and two others) were killed in shootings at spas in the Atlanta area, sparking anti-racism rallies across the country. It comes after a year of hate towards the Asian American community due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with hate crimes increasing 150 percent in this community, compared to dropping seven percent elsewhere, according to a recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Here in Newburgh, state and local officials, members of the Orange County Chinese Association and local residents came together to stand against the “uptick in targeted violence against Asian-owned businesses.”
Lawmakers, including Senator James Skoufis, Senator John Liu, Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson and City of Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey, denounced the “egregious behavior” and made it clear that “it has no place in the Hudson Valley, or anywhere else.”
“We’re speaking with one loud, unified, strong voice in that what we have seen, not just over the past week or so the horrible tragedy in Georgia, but what we have seen over the past year since the start of the pandemic, and even before then,” said Skoufis. “We are stating here that there is no place for hate against the Asian American community in the Hudson Valley, anywhere in New York State, anywhere period.”
Skoufis described that since the beginning of the pandemic, “we saw the beginnings of a lot of misplaced anger, racism and discriminiation.”
“What started as being spit on and being called names being shoved and punched, we now see people being gunned down in the Asian American community,” said Skoufis. “We are compelled to come together here today and say this is not who we are, this is unacceptable and we stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in the Asian American community.”
Two of the speakers at Wednesday’s event made comments in regards to the response from the police department in Atlanta following the shootings, as the crime has still not been identified as a hate crime.
“Make no mistake, the eight people who were gunned down in Georgia – those were hate crimes,” said Skoufis. “It angers me that to this day, law enforcement has still not labeled those heinous murders as hate crimes. You had the shooter visit the first spa, killed four people, and then travelled 30 miles to the next Asian-owned spa for his next murders. This was clearly targeted, clearly planned and clearly an attack on the Asian American community.”
Lui, one of the first two Asian Americans ever elected to the New York State Senate, described that the Asian American community has been not only dealing with a global pandemic, but a secondary virus of “hate and bigotry,” which is “in many ways even more violent.”
“As difficult as this past year has been, it’s not new to any of us really,” said Lui. “We’ve faced this hate our entire lives. From a year ago, there has been a marked increase, a skyrocketing onslaught, of hate and bias incidents against Asian Americans from the gestures.”
Lui described different experiences and comments the Asian American community has faced: comments of “Don’t sit close to me, I don’t want to get COVID,” “Why don’t you go back to China, don’t bring COVID over here,”; people walking on the streets intentionally avoiding the one Asian person that might be coming from the other direction; homes being vandalized, businesses being boycotted; people being sprayed disinfectant on and elderly Asian Americans being shoved violently from behind. Instead of these experiences, Lui called for the Asian American community to be seen for what they are – as Americans.
“Over the past year, we have seen a sharp uptick in crimes against Asian Americans,” said assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson. “This is not a coincidence. It is a result of hateful and discriminatory rhetoric and it must stop. Tragically, it took the shooting rampage in Atlanta for the rest of America to finally pay attention to what the AAPI community has been enduring. Let me be blunt. Hate crimes have no place in Atlanta, the Hudson Valley, New York State or anywhere in America.”