'But the shooter was Asian!' That doesn't negate the reality of anti-Asian violence.

In the past few days, two tragedies unfolded for California's Asian American community, both of which hit close to home for me (literally). Saturday night, what was supposed to be a joyous Lunar New Year celebration ended in devastation after a 72-year-old man shot and killed 11 people in a Monterey Park dance studio. Two days later, seven people were killed in a shooting at Half Moon Bay, just an hour from me. 

I know better than to be shocked by gun violence in America at this point. Unfortunately. But these two shootings stood out – for the wrong reasons.

The suspects, in both cases, are older Asian men. Not exactly who people were expecting.

And yet it's a factoid I keep being reminded of, echoed by those attempting to diminish the severity of last weekend. "Actually, the shooter was Asian!" It's an instinctive rebuttal to any support being sent to my community, as if the shooter also being Asian makes it any less devastating.

And as if it overshadows the never-ending, very real fears people like me have been navigating for years.

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Saying 'the shooter was Asian' shouldn't be a 'gotcha' moment

Eighteen people are dead. One victim was a "loving aunt, sister, daughter and friend" who went to the Monterey Park dance studio on Saturdays, because it's "what she loved to do." Another, a loving husband and "heart" of the studio, was killed while bravely attempting to stop the gunman.

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So many people lost their lives, or loved ones, this weekend. And yet it's tragic to see such a lack of empathy, where some are more fixated on pointing out the suspects' race than sending thoughts, prayers and condolences to a community reeling from the back-to-back trauma.

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Regardless of the suspects being Asian, innocent lives were taken. Race doesn't change that.

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"After nearly three years of attacks targeting the Asian American community, these shocking incidents have compounded the pain, fear and trauma that so many of us are feeling across California and across the country," Stop AAPI Hate wrote in a statement to USA TODAY on Tuesday. "We have long dealt with multiple forms of hate and violence, coming from outside, within and among our communities, and the identity of the shooters in both of these recent massacres does not and should not delegitimize or diminish our pain and fear."

A candlelight vigil on Jan. 23, 2023, for victims of a deadly mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, Calif.
A candlelight vigil on Jan. 23, 2023, for victims of a deadly mass shooting at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, Calif.

Especially since the pandemic, Asian Americans have experienced an unprecedented amount of racism and hate. It's our reality, backed up not only by lived experiences but also statistics.

We initially worried about verbal harassment and slurs. Now, we're adding on the fears of being pushed to our deaths in front of a subway. Being shot because Asian women are seen as "sexual objects." Being stabbed in the head, repeatedly, on a public bus.

So yes, this time, the tragic shootings might not have been out of racism. But that doesn't negate the constant harassment, violence and hatred we battle on a daily basis.

Jenna Ryu is a Wellness reporter for USA TODAY. Follow her on Twitter: @ryu_jenna  

Jenna Ryu
Jenna Ryu

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay shooting suspects' race shouldn't matter