Atlanta Massage Parlors Attacks Show Another Face of Racism in the U.S.

Massage Parlor Hate Crime Asians Atlanta BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of the AP.

Another hate crime has rocked the U.S. immigrant community after Robert Aaron Long, 21, opened fire at three Atlanta-area massage parlors Tuesday night, killing eight people.

The crimes may have targeted people of Asian descent, authorities said.

Four people were killed in the first shooting at Young’s Asian Massage near Acworth, a northwest Atlanta suburb, said Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the New York Times explained. That shooting, in which a Hispanic man was wounded, was reported around 5 p.m.

At 5:47 p.m., Atlanta police said, officers responded to a robbery at Gold Spa in the northeast part of the city, where they found the bodies of three women with gunshot wounds. While officers were at the scene, police said they received a report of shots fired at the Aromatherapy Spa across the street, where they found another woman’s body.

The FBI has joined investigators’ efforts, a spokesman for the Atlanta field office said, as the attack on the massage parlors is suspected to be the latest and escalating symptom of a wave of heightened racism against the Asian-American community.

As the Times continues, there have been nearly 3,800 reported hate incidents against Asian Americans nationwide since last March, according to Stop AAPI Hate. The group said Tuesday’s shooting “will only exacerbate the fear and pain the Asian American community continues to endure.”

In Seattle, the Police Department said Tuesday night that it would increase patrols and outreach to support the city’s Asian-American community. The NYPD’s counterterrorism bureau said on Twitter that it would “deploy assets to our large Asian communities across the city out of an abundance of caution.”

For its part, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed through police that four of the victims in the massage parlors who died were ethnic Korean women, the Associated Press reported.

Despite the growing number of reports of hate attacks against the Asian community, Stop AAPI Hate explained, the encounters often do not rise to the legal definition of a hate crime.

Still, police in several major cities experienced a sharp increase in hate crimes against Asians between 2019 and 2020, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. 

As the AP explained, New York City went from three incidents to 27, Los Angeles from seven to 15, and Denver had three incidents in 2020, the first reported in six years.

As the country experiences one of the most potent anti-racist social awakenings in decades, it appears that the intersectionality of race and the experience of discrimination continue to be overlooked by authorities.

“Our work to address anti-Asian racism is inextricably tied to fighting anti-Black racism,” Cynthia Choi, of Stop AAPI Hate, told the AP. “That’s gonna take all of us; it’s gonna take public education efforts, it’s gonna take racial solidarity efforts that really bring our communities together.”