The Atlanta Killings: Combatting Racism, Violence & Hate Crimes; Naming Issues, Recognizing Complexity

A Reflection on What Happened in Atlanta

by President David Leonard

Early last week, we were reminded once again, in one horrific event, of the myriad challenges our society faces – challenges of systemic racism; of individual racist action; of violence; the lack of responsible gun control; and the ubiquity of not only racism but also misogyny and patriarchy.  

I am speaking of the murder of eight individuals, six of whom were women of Asian descent, and the subsequent attention this has brought to a sustained pattern of anti-Asian sentiment and incidents across the nation – of which there has been a resurgence in the era of Covid19. 

Let me start by unequivocally denouncing these terrible acts of hate and violence in Atlanta. Our hearts go out to all those directly and indirectly affected. There can be no question that race and gender, along with misogyny and xenophobia, played a role in these killings. These multiple issues make this incident a terrible lesson in the truth of intersectionality. 

While a large (although not exclusive) part of our focus on racial equity in 2020 has been grounded in the lived experience of those who are or identify as Black and/or African American, this latest tragedy is a clear reminder that all people of color can be faced with disrespect, unequal treatment, stereotyping, actions rooted in white supremacy, and the potential for violence.  

We are all called to ensure that true inclusion is centered in our work and in our dealings with colleagues and community members.  Let us now turn our hearts and minds to those in our community who are Asian American, those who claim heritage from the variety of cultures and nations that we include in this aggregate identity. Regardless of the motive claimed by the perpetrator, these were racially informed murders.