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News, Podcasts, University News

The Bruno Brief: Brown community grieves Atlanta shooting victims

By , and
The Bruno Brief Team
Sunday, March 28, 2021

In this week’s episode of The Bruno Brief, we talk to students and faculty about their reactions to the deadly shooting in Atlanta, Georgia March 16, which killed eight people, including six Asian women. We speak to Senior Staff Writer Victoria Yin, who heard from community members about how they coped with the tragedy and about the broader context of the shooting.

Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or listen via the RSS feed, and send us tips and feedback for the next episode: herald@browndailyherald.com. The Bruno Brief is produced in partnership with WBRU.

Ben Glickman 

I’m Ben Glickman, and you’re listening to The Bruno Brief from The Brown Daily Herald and WBRU. Each week, we take you inside one of The Brown Daily Herald top stories. 

Victoria Yin 

Soon Park, Hyun Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Yue, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Yaun and Paul Andre Michels.

Ben Glickman 

These are the victims of a shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian women. In the wake of the shooting, Brown students and faculty spoke to The Herald about racism and violence against Asian Americans. This week, we hear from senior staff writer Victoria Yin, who covered this story, about the reactions of community members to the shooting in Atlanta. Victoria, thanks so much for being with us.

Victoria Yin 

Thanks for having me.

Ben Glickman 

For this story, you spoke with several students. How did they react when they first heard the news about the shooting?

Victoria Yin 

Yeah, so most students heard about the news last Thursday morning and most of them were very shocked and took it very hard, obviously. I know a member of BASE — Brown Asian Sisters Empowered — Yanhoo Cho was checking in with other Asian Americans and BASE members. And that’s when she got the idea to organize the BASE emergency gathering event for an event to bring the community together. Rachelle Shao, from CSA, the Chinese Students Association, she heard from social media and also was looking at the news at the same time because there’s a little bit of a disconnect between how the news was saying that this wasn’t a racialized attack and how people on social media were saying that it was. For her, there’s a bit of a confusion there as well.

Ben Glickman 

What were some of the emotions that the students you spoke to were feeling immediately following this incident as members of the Asian American community?

Victoria Yin

Yanhoo Cho from BASE said she, at the time of the news, was almost desensitized, just because of how much information she’s been seeing so far about anti-Asian violence and this topic.

Yanhoo Cho 

It’s really easy for me to be desensitized. I was not emotionally ready, like you would imagine, so it just kind of bugged me for the whole day. We know that this is recurring violence, but I was just so shocked at first.

Victoria Yin 

Rachelle Shao said that she didn’t feel like there was an end in sight for this type of violence.

Rachelle Shao 

I was shocked. Of course, I feel like I was not shocked because I wasn’t expressed? with myself to be if I told myself say a month before that this was going to be happening, I guess a part of me feels like something like this was bound to happen. So I guess my reaction wasn’t just complete shock. It was more just frustration, sadness, quite a bit of anger.

Ben Glickman 

So there’s been a significant rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the pandemic. Did some of the community members you spoke to see this shooting in Atlanta as a continuation of that trend?

Victoria Yin 

We heard from community members that this was sort of a continuation of the anti-Asian violence that has been increasing since the pandemic started. But most community members also emphasize that this anti-Asian racism, discrimination and violence is not new. Robert Lee, a professor of American Studies, pointed to the history of anti-Asian discrimination and the fact that Asians have been viewed as aliens and outsiders in this country for a very long time.

Robert Lee 

The logic of this — the logic that something like this would happen — seemed overwhelming. And so that was this sense of, “Yes, we knew this was coming.” This is part of the logic of the historical violence against Asians in the United States. So the history of violence, of mass violence, against Asians is deep in American history. And so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to us that this would happen. And yet, in some ways, I think it was because those histories are completely invisible to us.

Victoria Yin 

The other professor that my colleague Karlos Bautista spoke to is Professor Naoko Shibusawa. She specifically talked about how U.S. wars within Asian countries have contributed to racialization of Asian women as sex objects and the intersection between this misogyny and racism against Asian women. So the professor spoke about that, but also community members. Rachelle Shao said that she’s experienced racism her whole life and she didn’t believe that COVID was the beginning of all of this anti-Asian discrimination and violence.

Rachelle Shao 

We’ve grown up with racism all around us, it has been a shock. Like how much more racism there is like just going on like social media sites, looking at comments and things. As soon as anything Asian American is mentioned, people just call us bat eaters, uncivilized, things like that. I have seen some people saying, oh, yeah, COVID sparks Asian American racism. I don’t really believe that. I think it’s of course always been there. It’s just that, like, that is rising to the surface more, like there’s fuel for the fire, so that they feel more open to express their racist thoughts.

Ben Glickman 

As you said, you spoke with several professors about historical violence against Asian Americans and Asians in the United States. Can you help us contextualize this horrific act and talk about the implications of some of that history for our present situation?

Victoria Yin 

Yeah, for sure. So Robert Lee, who I mentioned before, cited five other mass killings that were targeted towards people of Asian descent.

Robert Lee 

What I called “Five massacres that you might have missed.”

Victoria Yin 

One as recently as 2012, in Wisconsin, that left six dead at a Sikh temple. Another in 1989, in Stockton, California, that left five Southeast Asian school children dead, and a few more examples of just hate and violence against the Asian community.

Robert Lee 

How many people here know about that Sikh temple massacre, only a decade ago? How many people know about the massacre of the Cambodian and Vietnamese schoolchildren in Stockton, California, not that long ago? Why are those massacres so invisible in the discourse of race in the United States?

Victoria Yin 

Professor Shibusawa, she spoke to the sort of broader anti-Asian racism and how that’s related to a history of imperialism, overseas colonialism and the U.S.’s military involvement in Asia. She spoke a lot about how war is integral to this history of anti-Asian racism and how Asian women’s bodies were seen as comfort during this time.

Ben Glickman 

Can you tell us about how community members at Brown went about grieving this horrific loss of life and coping with some of what they’re feeling after this?

Victoria Yin 

Like I mentioned before, members of BASE, including Yanhoo Cho, felt the need to provide a space for processing, grieving, coming together for the community. Yanhoo and another BASE co-coordinator, Amy Chin, decided to organize the BASE emergency gathering. And this was held last Friday, two days after the shooting. Almost 100 students, faculty and community members attended the event.

Yanhoo Cho 

We really wanted to have some event that was organized by us — by Asian women — for us to grieve and go beyond that and have moments of solidarity and just like really take action. I’m that glad that BASE was able to create space where we weren’t left completely numb or inactive.

Victoria Yin 

Another co-coordinator of BASE, Audrey Buhain, she said that BASE was one of only two events held on campus for processing grief and other feelings, this being the BCSC community gathering. And she’s not talking about discussions or other types of Asian-related events. I think she’s talking specifically about events for community gathering and grieving.

Ben Glickman 

What kind of help has the University provided for the community to sort of grieve and address anti-Asian hate since the shooting happened?

Victoria Yin 

President Christina Paxson sent out an email to students expressing her sympathy and condemning racial violence against Asians and Asian Americans. I believe in that email she linked to an event hosted by an East Asian studies professor. There was also the Brown Center for Students of Color event that I mentioned earlier, the Asian and Asian American Community Gathering, and that was held this Monday.

Ben Glickman 

Were some of the students and faculty members you spoke with happy with the University response, or did they think that maybe the University should have done more? 

Victoria Yin

BASE member and co-coordinator Audrey Buhain told me that there weren’t that many events for Asian Americans and felt like the University could have done more potentially in that area. She told me that this was a moment where a community that was already grieving was responsible for laboring and caring for one another when, quote, “No one else will,” unquote. So I think she felt like the burden was sort of on Asian and Asian American members of the community already to have this event and to have a space for processing and healing. Professor Robert Lee told us that neither he nor his colleagues who are of Asian descent were consulted by President Christina Paxson before she sent out a communitywide email.

Robert Lee 

The fact that we have several faculty members at the University who work on Asian American topics, or they are, you know, teach Asian American studies courses, and none of us were consulted when the President issued her statement. It was quite gracious and heartfelt, I’m sure. Not to be too cynical about it, but it’s not, I suppose, surprising. It was disappointing.

Victoria Yin 

And in response, University spokesperson Brian Clark said that the administration had been engaging with impacted faculty, staff and students, given the sharp rise in anti-Asian violence in the past few months.

Ben Glickman 

Did the shooting in Atlanta make a change in the eyes of your sources in how they see the Asian community and dealing with issues of racism, more close to home, on campus and beyond College Hill?

Victoria Yin 

I think that one source in particular, Rachelle Shao, said that she hoped that this was an opportunity for people of Asian descent, for Asians and Asian Americans, to come forward and share their experiences of discrimination.

Rachelle Shao 

I feel like a lot of at least East Asians around me, a lot of my parents’ age or like the old generation, they are silent. They don’t want to speak out even though they do witness it and experience this stuff. But because of this rise of racism, they’ll be more vocal about it and form a more united Asian American/Pacific Islander community.

Victoria Yin 

Additionally, she mentioned that she would like to see solidarity for Asian Americans among other communities, sort of like what we saw with Black Lives Matter last summer. Just more solidarity for the Asian and Asian American community.

Ben Glickman 

So you told us about how there’s a long history of violence against Asian American people, and many of your sources didn’t think that this is something unique. Do they think that the attention around this shooting in particular will lead to any change?

Victoria Yin 

Yeah, I think community members were disappointed to see the media not covering this as a racial issue. And also the coverage around saying the perpetrator was having a bad day — that was very angering for a lot of community members. I remember that Professor Shibusawa said that the NAACP released a statement in support of Asians and Asian Americans, and that that was a big deal. So I think for community members, just seeing support from more POC communities and from just communities at large and other Asian Americans has been helpful and is something that they’d like to see in the future.

Ben Glickman 

Victoria, the last thing that I want to ask you is, as a member of the Asian American community, what was it like for you to report this story on a personal level?

Victoria Yin 

For me, being able to speak with other members of the community and hear about their thoughts, feelings, experiences after this tragic incident, it was almost cathartic because I could relate to a lot of what people were saying. And I also learned a lot from other sources, including professors and community organizers and members. I think I could dive into the piece with a bit of a deeper understanding of the complexities of this issue and how nuanced it is and how heartbreaking, but how also many members were not as surprised as they thought they would be, because we’ve seen an uptick in racism and violence against Asian Americans and also because of the history of such violence that I think some people can forget about. I think I heard from a lot of people that there was a sort of feeling of invisibility around this issue before this incident had occurred, and I think that relates to what Professor Lee was saying when he said that he and other Asian professors weren’t consulted by the administration as well. 

Ben Glickman 

Victoria, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Victoria Yin 

Thanks for having me.

Ben Glickman 

In other news, 270 Providence public school teachers and staff received displacement notices from the district March 19, meaning they may be moved to a new position or let go in the fall. On March 22, days after the announcement, the Providence Teachers Union took a vote of no confidence in the state Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. This has been the Bruno Brief. Our show is produced by Livi Burdette, Corey Gelb-Bicknell, Gaya Gupta, Gabriella Sartori and me. The Bruno Brief is an equal partnership between WRBU and The Brown Daily Herald. I’m Ben Glickman. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

____________________

Produced by: Olivia Burdette, Ben Glickman, Gaya Gupta, Gabriella Sartori, and Corey Gelb-Bicknell

Music: 

Denzel Sprak (www.sessions.blue)

Taoudella (www.sessions.blue)

Plate Grayscale (www.sessions.blue)

Special thanks to Emily Teng and Olivia Burdette for cover design.

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  1. thao mcgrane says:

    the ivey schools have gone out of their ways to discriminate and belittle all asian through their admission process and exclusion in leadership positions; so why do you think that it is ok for you to fucking virtual signal your crocodile tears?

    get over yourself.

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