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When tragedies fade from the headlines, those affected often become the loudest advocates

AAPI rallies
Posted at 12:24 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 15:24:55-04

ATLANTA, Ga. — One year after the spa shootings that shook the nation, Asian-American communities around the U.S. held rallies to remember the victims and mobilize for the future.

They had no choice.

Despite the continuing rise in hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals, the headlines and national attention have faded.

Robert Peterson knows this too well. His mother, Yong Yue, was among eight victims, six of whom were Asian-American women, when one man attacked three spas in the Atlanta area on March 16, 2021.

Moving forward, personally, is hard enough. But Peterson also feels the responsibility of moving forward publicly, as a voice for communities who desperately need them.

“Why it hurts is because my mother didn’t ruffle feathers," Peterson said. "My mother didn’t cause trouble. My mother just wanted to do like most mothers: just go to work, and try to enjoy life."

Those were the lessons that his mom instilled in him as well.

“We were raised to be self-sufficient," Peterson said, "but we were raised to be in our own community and take care of ourselves: just do your part, be a good guy, contribute to the world, and things will work out.”

That mindset often comes because of hesitation of how the outside world will receive it. There are language and cultural barriers, and in terms of speaking with reporters, there is the concern that the journalists reaching out for interviews don't represent them.

But the spa shootings, and the nearly 11,000 other hate incidents reported by AAPI individuals since the start of the COVID pandemic, have "awakened some of us to tell our stories," Peterson said.

So at that rally on March 16th, Peterson stepped up to the podium.

“My mother was an Asian woman who was targeted for who she was," he said at the rally, "for occupying a particular space by someone she didn’t know. My mother would want you to care. She would want you to be concerned. She would want the community to feel supported and be included. Racism can be messy, but within this shared responsibility comes communal and collective pain.”