Insider: We need to stop talking about the race of the Monterey Park shooting suspect

Image for Insider: We need to stop talking about the race of the Monterey Park shooting suspect
People visit the scene of a mass shooting on Sunday, January 22, 2023 in Monterey Park. Credit: Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images.

By Yoonji Han/Insider

The Asian community in America is grieving after a mass shooting following a Lunar New Year celebration in California this weekend.

Ten people were killed at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park on Saturday night, according to authorities. The city, which has a majority Asian population, is widely regarded as the first suburban Chinatown and a haven for many Asian Americans.

Police found the suspected gunman on Sunday, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. Authorities have not announced a motive, but familiar feelings of fear and dread swiftly resurfaced among the AAPI community, which has faced a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes since the start of the pandemic.

When authorities revealed the suspect was a man of Asian descent, some media outlets and pundits criticized politicians and members of the Asian American community who had condemned the shooting as an act of hate.

But the suspect’s race does not preclude apprehension or calls for solidarity. To dismiss — and even ridicule — the tragedy as just another mass shooting is also a dismissal of the experiences of the Asian American community, and a history of marginalization, targeted violence, and bigotry.

“The incident highlights the fact that there are many forms of violence our community deals with all the time, and gun shootings and mass violence are a part of that,” Jane Shim, who leads anti-Asian violence work at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said.

“A ‘gotcha’ is a totally absurd thing to say when incidents of anti-Asian violence occur every day, whether it’s serious physical violence or verbal harassment,” Shim told Insider.

The Monterey Park shooting sheds light on questions about not only racial violence, but also about violence more broadly — whether it’s within or across identity groups. Militarism, colonialism, and hostility sown among groups are broader factors that “feed into a culture of violence,” Shim told Insider.

“Asian American communities are also impacted by violence within our communities, and that’s an important thing to talk about as well,” Shim added.

The Monterey Park shooting is a “continuation of a massive epidemic of gun violence that’s causing these massacres,” Stanley Mark, senior staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said.

“The heart of the problem here is the unfettered access to guns, even in a state that has some of the strongest gun laws in the country,” Nikore told Insider, citing how gun ownership has led to an increase in domestic partner violence, accidental deaths, and deliberate attacks.

In addition to a re-defining of public safety and gun laws, communities can take steps to create a network of solutions that help prevent violence in the first place, including mental health counseling, financial and legal aid, and local organizations that understand the community they serve firsthand, according to experts.

“The bottom line is, it’s violence. Just like the people who were killed in the Buffalo supermarket, the synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Baton Rouge nightclub, or schools across America, these families and individuals are suffering,” Mark said. “We need to recognize that we’re all in it together, and we need to deal with this in a systematic and structural way.”


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