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Centering community healing on second anniversary of Atlanta spa shootings

Two years ago today, eight people – six of whom were women of Asian descent – were murdered by a gunman who attacked three spas in Atlanta.

On this second anniversary of the shootings, the Southern Poverty Law Center joins community leaders at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Atlanta to reverently remember the lives taken in that act of hate-inspired violence and to remember that their loss is felt deeply by their families and communities.

As we reflect on the pain and loss that continues to reverberate from that day, we remain steadfast in the pursuit of racial, economic, gender and social justice. In chorus with Advancing Justice-Atlanta, we seek safety, not surveillance; opportunity, not incarceration; and healing, not policing.

But much work remains to be done.

Recently updated FBI hate crime statistics show that there were 789 attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in 2021, the same year the Atlanta shootings took place. That number was almost 500 more hate crimes – a 168% increase – over the 2020 figures and, by far, the highest number of reported hate crimes against AAPI community members and institutions since the FBI data collection program began in 1991.

In the year following the attack in Atlanta, Stop AAPI Hate documented nearly 5,000 hate incidents targeting the AAPI community. The group’s data collection from March 19, 2020, to March 31, 2022, showed that female, nonbinary or LGBTQ+ individuals are often targeted for the multiple immutable characteristics they embody. At least 63% of the 11,467 incidents recorded from March 2020 to March 2022 were reported by individuals from those gender identities and sexual orientations.

To effectively supplant white supremacy with intersectional movements for the human rights of all people, we must reaffirm our commitment to community resilience, support and liberation. Thus, the SPLC stands in unyielding solidarity with Advancing Justice-Atlanta in its “call for a radical reimaging of what justice, healing, love and hope can look like” in communities of color across the South and beyond.

You can read Advancing Justice-Atlanta’s full statement on the second anniversary of the Atlanta shootings here and access Stop AAPI Hate’s reports here.

Lydia Bates is a program manager of partnerships at the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.

Photo at top: A memorial in front of the Gold Spa on March 20, 2021. It was one of three Atlanta-area spas where fatal shootings occurred on March 16, 2021. Of the eight victims, six were women of Asian descent. (Credit: Tami Chappell/UPI/Alamy Live News)