After the events in Atlanta, many of the high school’s teachers, students and other Brookline community members were personally affected by the mass shooting itself and the overall increase in COVID-19-related hate crimes. Many AAPI in the town, like Wang, had strong reactions to the killings.
“My first reaction was one of frustration, and then frustration turned into deep sadness. In the world we live in, of course with George Floyd, I was upset that it happened, and then I was upset that it didn’t surprise me,” Wang said. “You’ve been hearing for a while both in the news and personal testimony that Asian-Americans had been facing a lot of violence and a lot of hate speech for being who they were.”
Lee said that the shootings affected her personally as an Asian woman.
“I was not surprised because this happens so often. But, hearing all about it and hearing other people make connections to misogyny, it really hit being an Asian woman,” Lee said.
Spiller, who was also not surprised by the Atlanta events, felt that stereotypes about Asian American and Pacific Islander struggles affected her perception of violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander community.
“I feel like I haven’t heard that much about Asian-American violence, and so I just was kind of like ‘it’s just another killing,’ which is awful to say, and I think it’s all due to how the Asian-American struggle is portrayed in the media,” Spiller said. “It’s not portrayed at all and there are a lot of stereotypes of Asian-Americans that make it seem like our community doesn’t really struggle or have any problems.”
Head of School Anthony Meyer said that the desensitization of violence against the AAPI community was saddening for not only the local community, but for the nation as a whole.
“There is concern not only for high school students, staff and families, but nationwide and worldwide. Unfortunately you are accustomed to reading about violent incidents in our country,” Meyer said. “There was a time when there were not as many of those as there are now, and it’s just more than dispiriting.”
In honor of the victims of the Atlanta shooting, the high school hosted a vigil after school on May 26, organized by Ashley Eng ‘19; senior Jackie Gu; juniors Yoki Hoshi, Lily Lockwood and Lilia Burtonpatel; and freshman Tina Li.
The crowd at the Mar. 26 vigil
Eng an alum, coordinated with current students to organize the vigil. She received logistics help from the Brookline Asian-American Family Network (BAAFN) and spread the word using social media.
“What the vigil meant was that it was an opportunity to provide a place for AAPI students to share how they’re feeling and raise calls to actions for the greater community. It was a place for the community to listen to the voices of AAPI students and to continue listening,” Eng said. “What it means to me personally is that the work doesn’t stop at the vigil. I just hope that all the energy that was brought by both the organizers and the community doesn’t stop. I hope that that energy is actually used to make impactful change.”