Members of Denver’s Asian American, Pacific Islander communities share collective grief following Atlanta spa shootings

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DENVER — Collective grief continues through Colorado’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community, causing fear and uncertainty according to those who shared their lived experiences with Denver7.

On Tuesday, authorities in Atlanta said they arrested a man in connection to three deadly shootings that killed eight people. Six of the eight were women of Asian descent. The suspect reportedly told sheriff’s deputies that he was not racially motivated. However, that remains under investigation and officials have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime designation.

“There was worry for me to come to work today. Should we open? Should we not?” said Tran Wills, founder of Base Coat salon and Matriarch Mercantile.

Wills is Vietnamese-American and said she was born and raised in Denver.

“I am a first-generation American,” she said.

She said Tuesday’s tragedy was another painful reminder of the realities faced by those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

“This has been going on for so long that we just learn to live with it, and I think, especially Asian women, we are we’re not living with this anymore,” Wills said.

She added that racist vitriol towards Asian Americans has only been made worse during the ongoing pandemic and by those who hold power.

“I actually had clients call and say, ‘I don’t wanna see any Asian women at your salon. Please don’t book me with an Asian woman,’ and that was the first time I broke down,” Wills said. “That language being used since the start of the pandemic — calling the virus things like Chinese flu.”

Through tears, Wills said, “I see my mom, myself, my sisters, my employees — they’re my family and if anything happened to them, I don’t think I’d know what to do.”

According to a report released on Tuesday by Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization, Asian Americans were targeted in nearly 3,800 hate incidents in the past year.

“In Colorado alone in 2020, 37 incidents were reported, ranging from verbal abuse to vandalism, shunning, coughing and spitting, workplace harassment, to physical assault,” said Deborah Yim of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado.

Yim shared that Colorado-based Asian American nonprofits are working to compile an incident list of violence against those in the state’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities

“Our Asian community tends to stay silent about these things, and that means not complaining and in a way perpetuating that Asian ‘model minority’ stereotype,” Yim said. “There might be fear of repercussion or even a lack of knowledge of where to report. I think it’s really important that these incidents are reported and recorded so we can begin this important work of systemic change.”

On Thursday, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado will be cosponsoring a virtual town hall to discuss solutions for prevention, education and support.

Town Hall

To report an anti-AAPI hate incident click here. The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Colorado has also compiled this list