Speaking the names of XIAOJIE TAN, HYUN JUNG GRANT, SOON CHUNG PARK, SUNCHA KIM, YONG AE YUE, DAOYOU FENG.

In anticipation of March being Women’s History Month, I have been preparing for some time to amplify and speak the names of some of the African American/Black women on whose shoulders I proudly stand; however, my mind now wrestles with March 16, when eight people -- seven women -- six of Asian ancestry, were murdered by a lone gunman at three separate spas in Atlanta, Georgia.

Like some of you, I have had some sleepless nights and as the head of the local, oldest and largest civil rights organization in the nation, have pondered what to do and how to help, amidst a pandemic. Should we hold a candlelight vigil/silent protest? Organize a rally? Have a call to action? I pride myself on having a circle of friends from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and lived experiences. I contacted several and concluded as our late Congressman John R. Lewis said, we must “Do something, say something, speak up, and speak out.”

We must speak up and speak out the name of XIAOJIE TAN, a spa owner who was just days away from turning 50, went by the name Emily, and worked 12-hour shifts for a better life for her family and herself, keeping a running journal of cities and continents she wanted to visit when she retired;

HYUN JUNG GRANT, 51, mother of two sons, who immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea, a lover of dance, who dedicated her life to her two sons who are left to cherish her memories;

SOON CHUNG PARK, 74, who spent most of her life in the New York metro area, before moving to Atlanta to be closer to friends;

SUNCHA KIM, 69, grandmother of three who is remembered as a “pure-hearted, selfless woman who worked multiple jobs”;

YOUNG AE YUE, 63, and mother of two. Her youngest son described her as “an amazing woman who loved to introduce our family and friends to her home-cooked Korean food and Korean karaoke”;

DAOYOU FENG, 44, who recently began work at the spa.

We also speak the name of DELAINA ASHLEY YAUN GONZALEZ, 33, a newlywed, visiting Young’s spa for the first time with her husband, and whose life revolved around family, including an 8-month-old daughter and 13-year-old son;

And PAUL MICHELS, 54, a U.S. Army veteran who was at Young’s working on their security system.

These senseless murders that specifically targeted women of Asian descent are xenophobic and racist and today we call out racism and xenophobia. Throughout our history, racism manifests itself as “a belief that racial differences produce the inherent superiority of a particular race,” based on “flawed ideas that have developed around perceived differences in human beings based upon appearance and color.”

Racism is a social system with multiple dimensions, “including individual racism that is internalized/interpersonal, and systemic racism, that is institutional and structural. Systemic racism unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities and depletes the strength of the whole society.”

Xenophobia is defined by Oxford as “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.” It is a known fact that since the start of the pandemic, there have been close to 4,000 recorded hate incidents against the Asian American community (https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/), a community that, despite having lived and worked in and for the U.S. for hundreds of years, is often still seen as foreign and un-American.

Derrick Johnson, our national president wrote, “The NAACP was founded on multiracial allyship and community organizing. Now more than ever we must stand together, united against racial violence in all its forms. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

When one person of color suffers racism, it affects all people of color, as it is another reminder that we are judged by the color of our skin rather than the content of our character, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What must we do? We all have an obligation here, including checking on our friends and neighbors, denouncing racism and xenophobia and speaking up and speaking out (https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-03-19/how-to-help-after-racist-attacks?fbclid=IwAR1sF_1-q9VLozyMfM0bDwXQdDfLtNjLCOe5__j-ec7uDV3n2FWzVWnM5X4).

XIAOJIE TAN, HYUN JUNG GRANT, SOON CHUNG PARK, SUNCHA KIM, YOUNG AE YUE, AND DAOYOU FENG, we speak your name.

Sources: NAACP.org, Merriam-Webster dictionary, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times

Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt, chief investigator retired, Santa Barbara County Public Defender, is a volunteer community activist and president of the Santa Maria-Lompoc Branch of the NAACP

Lata Murti is an Associate Professor of Sociology for Brandman University and a member of the Santa Maria-Lompoc Branch of the NAACP.

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