Opinion: The horrifying reality of anti-AAPI racism and gun violence

“I have been shot! Please come! I need you!”

These were the horrifying words that came out of Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz’s mouth as he called his wife in fear for his life, according to the Washington Post. Hernandez-Ortiz survived the mass shooting on March 16 in Acworth, a suburb of Atlanta.

As a father, husband, and a hardworking mechanic, Hernandez-Ortiz immigrated from Guatemala 10 years ago believing the U.S. would hold opportunities for him to settle down and create a life for himself and his family. Yet he has become another innocent victim of gun violence on American soil. 

Before the shooting, Hernandez-Ortiz had been enjoying a leisurely walk towards a money exchange business nearby, according to the New York Times.

Just like any loving father, he had been looking forward to celebrating his daughter’s 10th birthday the next week. 

Rather than using the money he was going to obtain from the nearby exchange business for a potential birthday gift for his daughter, it is safe to assume these funds will now have to go toward Hernandez-Ortiz’s hospital bills that will cover his injuries.

According to the New York Times, Hernandez-Ortiz suffered a blow to his forehead, throat, lungs and stomach. and is still fighting for his life in the hospital. On the GoFundMe page raising money to cover Hernandez-Ortiz’s medical expenses, his wife wrote an update on March 24 that he will have surgery on his trachea.  

Hernandez-Ortiz is not the only one who our prayers must be out toward, as eight innocent lives were lost at the hands of this gunman who targeted multiple day spas around the area.

Six of the eight victims were of Asian descent, according to the New York Times.

As hate crimes have continued to rise against innocent Asian Americans, this act of violence has caused concern that it may be linked with more unjust and horrifying anti-Asian racism.

Nearly 3,800 hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported over the last year to Stop AAPI Hate. Among these reports are AAPI people being spat at and coughed on.

One person, a Pacific Islander in Dallas, Texas reported to Stop AAPI Hate that they were speaking Chamorro when a woman coughed and said, “You and your people are the reason why we have corona … Go sail a boat back to your island.”

These actions are not only horrifying, but also incredibly insensitive and downright wrong. Although it is so much easier said than done, we must put a stop to these actions. At the end of the day, we are all human beings, and that should be enough to want to treat everyone as equals.

When I first read about these acts of violence in the news, I was truly at a loss of words. Sitting here at my desk now, I still don’t quite know how to articulate my heartbreak and sorrow for all of those who have been affected by this incident.

But here’s the catch — this is one horrific incident out of so many.

A recent CNN analysis shows that as the U.S. lifts COVID restrictions and returns “back to normal,” that normalcy includes gun violence. In the two weeks since the Atlanta shooting, there have been at least 20 mass shootings.

There are so many innocent people that are being wrongfully treated every single day for something they should not have to suffer from: their race and identity. Something I am still so saddened by is the fact that our country still has such a long way to come with regards to embracing our differences when it comes to culture, race, and identity.

Our differences are what makes America so wonderful, as they bring different perspectives and conversations to the table and should be celebrated. It’s time to incite some positive change.

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