Amid escalating violence targeting Asian Americans, the murder of eight people, among them six women of Asian descent, in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 16 rocked the country. In the wake of these horrific attacks, museums across the United States responded with a series of statements addressing the lethal consequences of xenophobia against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the country, which has spiked since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, and Paul Andre Michels have been identified as victims of the shooting. Their ages ranged from 33 to 74.
The arrested suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, is facing eight counts of murder.
Condemnations poured from art institutions, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC; the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York; and San Fransico’s Asian Art Museum.
“This is a frightening escalation of the racial violence targeting Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) across the country since the pandemic began,” a statement by MOCA reads. “Attacks have occurred on the streets in broad daylight, just outside victims’ homes, and at their jobs — terrifying incidents that recall previous eras of anti-Asian bigotry.”
MOCA posted a disquieting video charting the history of violence and discrimination against Asian AAPI communities in the US since 1882.
A statement on Instagram from the Met’s president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss and director Max Hollein said: “These reprehensible acts are counter to all the Museum stands for, and we stand in solidarity with the AAPI community — here in New York, at The Met, among our staff and their families, and around the country.”
In a statement headed “Stop Anti-Asian Violence Now,” Jay Xu, director and CEO of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, said that the museum installed murals on the building’s facade to address rising hate crimes against AAPI people in the US. The trio of murals was painted by Jas Charanjiva, Chanel Miller, and Jenifer K Wofford.
In the last year, we have experienced a horrifying increase in anti-Asian violence. This violence has been fueled by rhetoric baselessly blaming people of Asian descent for the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, these hate crimes are only the most recent incidents in our country’s long and ugly history of scapegoating immigrant and racialized communities in times of crisis.
The Jewish Heritage Museum, which was targeted by white supremacist vandals in the wake of the Capitol mob attack in January, characterized the rise in anti-Asian violence and antisemitism as “symptoms of the record-setting increase of white supremacist extremism that must be met with resistance and education.”
“We stand with our elected leaders, sister organizations, and fellow community members across the country to combat the rising tide of racial discrimination and violence against the Asian American Pacific Islander community,” the museum’s statement added.
A collective statement by the American Historical Society (AHA), signed by 20 organizations, recognized the long history of race-based hatred and institutional discrimination in the country.
“This hostility against particular groups because of their ethnic origins — expressed via cultural stereotypes, scapegoating, physical aggression, and bloodshed — has deep roots in our nation’s past,” the statement said.
Signatories included the African American Intellectual History Society, American Catholic Historical Association, Conference on Asian History, Historical Society for Twentieth Century China, and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.
“The racialized misogyny explicit in the Atlanta killings is the product of generations-long stereotyping and cultural denigration against Asian American women in particular,” the statement added, outlining scapegoating of AAPI throughout American history.
Without naming Donald Trump, the AHA denounced the former president’s use of racist phrases like “China virus” and “Kung Flu.”
“The spurious association of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community with COVID-19 is another example of Americans blaming their fellow Americans for larger social ills,” the historians said. “The murder in Atlanta of eight people on March 16, including six women of Asian descent, suggests that we have not transcended this history.”