A day before the shooting deaths of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent, Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au took to the floor, urging her colleagues to pay attention to rising anti-Asian violence.
“Recognize that we need help, we need protection, and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate,” she told the legislature.
Au, who is Chinese American, is the first Asian American senator in the state of Georgia. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up about 25% of her district. Meanwhile, the rapidly growing demographic makes up about 4.1% of the total state population.
“Even before this incident on Tuesday, I felt that responsibility. They were hungry for representation,” Au later said in a phone interview with the USA TODAY Network. . “Part of that is why I spoke out about violence against our Asian American communities even before this incident happened.”
When Au saw that a trio of shootings took place at three different massage spas in Cherokee County and Atlanta, she was “really shaken up” at how prescient her words became but acknowledged racism, discrimination and violence are happening all the time and everywhere.
“It might not have been on this scale. It might not have been a mass shooting,” Au said. “This is not necessarily a big city problem. This is not a coastal problem. This is a problem that’s taking place all across the country.”
During a press call hosted by Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, Aisha Yaqoob, executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, also noted the growing Asian American community in metro Atlanta suburbs.
“Our communities have changed and we’re hoping Georgia will change along with it,” said Yaqoob.
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