I am writing to express my deep sadness over the events in Atlanta this week, which led to the death of eight people, six of whom were of Asian or Pacific Island heritage. I would like to, on behalf of our PrairieUU community, offer to our Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) siblings, our deepest sympathy, love, and support in this time of personal and communal pain. We see you! We see your women and children who are continually fetishized by men. We see your pain when your struggle is minimized by narratives of “exceptionalism” and as “model minorities.” We see the abuse perpetrated against you in big and small, overt and covert ways. We see your pain. We see you!
I would like to send love, compassion, and healing strength to all who have been affected by this act of violence, to the people who died, to their families and community, to the community of Atlanta, to all members of the AAPI community, and yes, to the family of the shooter, all of whom are so deeply affected by this heinous act.
To our PrairieUU community, I ask us all to recognize that no matter what is said about motive, whether it be mental health, religious radicalization, sexual addiction, or because the “shooter was having a bad day,” that we see this act for what it is ~ a hate crime against the AAPI community. No matter the reason was given, this man took his anguish, anger, etc out on Asian-owned and operated businesses, and we cannot forget or overlook this fact. I am assuming that there are many other spas in the Atlanta area. We must, as a community, recognize and name that there is a reason this person targeted spas that were Asian-owned and operated. I do not claim to know this person’s mind or intention, but I do know this: the act itself was, at minimum, even if it was not understood by the shooter himself, an act rooted in racial bias, and in the worst-case scenario, an act of outright, overt racism. We cannot let this be overlooked if we are to do right by our AAPI community.
As many of you know, I was raised in Southern California. What you may not know is that many of my closest friends growing up and in seminary are members of the AAPI community, specifically of Japanese, Korean, and Philippino descent. To you, my friends and siblings in faith and community, today I offer you a sincere apology and ask for your forgiveness, for not speaking out sooner, louder, and more directly in response to the ever consistent, and in recent times increasing overt violence perpetrated against you and members of our AAPI community. I aim to do better and ask for your guidance, counsel, and forgiveness.
I invite our PrairieUU community and all who are seeking to be people who are widening and inviting love in your lives, to join me in learning more about the AAPI community and engage more actively and deeply in anti-racism work against our AAPI siblings.
With Sympathy, Hope, and Love,
Pastor AJ Blackwood