All communities should be safe from prejudice, hate and violence. The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties grieves for the victims of Tuesday’s shooting in Atlanta. We offer our heartfelt support to all who are impacted by this horrific attack, especially Georgia’s Asian American community and our own.

Our region has experienced disturbing incidents of harassment and violence directed toward Asian Americans and Asian immigrants. A year ago in San Marcos, Erin Chew, an Australian of Malaysian Chinese descent, was verbally attacked in a Costco parking lot by an unidentified man who blamed her and the Chinese people for spreading Covid-19. A month ago, an elderly Filipina American was physically attacked while traveling on a San Diego trolley.

Such occurrences are part of the alarming rise in anti-Asian bias – locally, statewide and nationally – since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But this is not the first time Asian Americans have been targeted. The United States has a long, unsettling history of anti-Asian scapegoating, racism and violence. The most egregious example is the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.  Another example is the brutal murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 – the event that spawned the Asian American civil rights movement. Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death by two laid off autoworkers who blamed him for the loss of their jobs to Japanese auto manufacturers.

Until we address our nation’s shameful legacy of “othering” people of color, this cyclical pattern of anti-Asian prejudice, hate and violence will continue.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties calls on our regional, state and federal elected officials to publicly condemn anti-Asian bias. We urge them to actively work with affected groups and their leaders to identify and implement approaches to curtail racial intolerance, rhetoric and violence. And we call on our region’s diverse communities to unite in solidarity against all forms of bigotry and hate.

Our country’s greatest strengths are the diversity of its people and the principles of human dignity, equal rights and inclusion that unite us all. We the People means everyone. We must not allow racial intolerance and injustice to undermine these cherished values.