The tragic killing of eight people at Atlanta area spas on Wednesday, six identified as Asian women, was just the latest incident to escalate tensions among Asian communities regarding a rise in racially-motivated attacks.
According to Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash. 10th District), one of four Korean Americans to be elected to Congress, there needs to be a reckoning on accountability when it comes to hate crimes.
"I think part of the frustration that a lot of us in the Asian community have right now is that these crimes are happening, and there doesn't seem to be an urgency to respond to it," she told Cheddar. "And I think that's why we are being so intentional about speaking out, holding rallies, and making sure that people do not erase us or make us invisible."
Strickland, who is also half Black, said that she's "concerned for the safety of communities of color, in general," particularly after marginalized groups had to be subjected to divisive rhetoric from former President Donald Trump over the past four years.
"Eight people died, and six of them, Asian women. And so there are a lot of elements to this crime that warrant our attention," she said of the March 17 massacre. "This has been going on, again, really since COVID."
Demanding Accountability of People in Power
While forcing a change in people's hearts and minds is not necessarily realistic, Strickland said that she expects some legislation to come down the pipeline to address criminal hate incidents but noted that since most such crimes are heavily local matters, addressing them requires buy-in from the community.
"I would say to people who are in the cities, on the ground, in the neighborhood, stay local, make sure you hold people accountable, and don't let up," she said.
The congresswoman also addressed remarks by Captain Jay Baker, a spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff, who described the Atlanta spa shooter as "having a really bad day" prior to the massacre and whose own social media posts came to light, which included images containing anti-Asian rhetoric.
"When these crimes are committed, we don't want to see people in positions of authority or law enforcement, like the sheriff did, making excuses for it," she said.
"We want to send a message that when you commit a hate crime in the United States, regardless of who the victim is, people want accountability. They want there to be consequences and repercussions."
Strickland explained that the Asian community has to continue applying pressure to those in power in order for real solutions to emerge.
"People must feel empowered to speak out and they must feel comfortable speaking out but just speak out if you have something to say," she said.