Opinion: Spa murders won’t divide Americans

People hold signs of support at a memorial to remember the victims of the Atlanta area massage parlors shootings during a memorial in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, March 28, 2021. The March 17 shootings at three Georgia massage parlors and spas that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans since the coronavirus entered the United States. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
People hold signs of support at a memorial to remember the victims of the Atlanta area massage parlors shootings during a memorial in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, March 28, 2021. The March 17 shootings at three Georgia massage parlors and spas that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent, come on the heels of a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans since the coronavirus entered the United States. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Credit: Charlie Riedel

Credit: Charlie Riedel

For all the progress we have made, much more is required to build the trust needed for effective law enforcement. We vow to reach out and to listen better – and to act.

The recent murders in Atlanta were acts of indescribable cruelty and hatred. They were un-American and inhuman. If these murders were intended to horrify us, they did. But if they were intended to divide us, know this: They have not only failed, they have had just the opposite effect.

We, the undersigned, are former United States Attorneys from both Democratic and Republican administrations. We are men and women. We are from the North and South. The East and West. We are every color and every religion. We are gay and straight. We are from different generations. We are conservative, moderate, and progressive. And in these hyperpartisan and divisive times, we may disagree on a lot.

But we agree on this: We are united in supporting the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities as we mourn together. We are also united in our condemnation of all acts of hatred and bigotry, and the words of hatred and bigotry that inspire them, whether they are directed at Asians, Blacks, women, members of the LGBTQ community or any other historically disadvantaged group.

To those who do and say such things in the guise of patriotism or fidelity to American ideals: You don’t really understand what America strives to be about. You don’t understand, love, or serve this nation, but betray it, and its greatest ideals.

Our country is not perfect. Our history is marked too often by times when we have failed to live up to our ideals of equality and fairness. We know that many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have faced shameful bigotry, oppression, and violence in this nation — not just during the coronavirus pandemic, but dating back a century and more, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Korematsu decision, and the murder of Vincent Chin, to name just a few. And tragically, inexcusably, our nation still confronts an epidemic of violence against women, and against women in these very communities.

We cannot and must not dismiss or minimize this terrible event as the action of a single, depraved individual. We cannot minimize or ignore the facts; we can’t overcome the fear and ignorance at the heart of racism without understanding its entire context, including some of the ugliest episodes in our country’s history. We also know, as former law enforcement officials, that there has been historic and understandable distrust of government in Asian American, Native Hawaii, and Pacific Islander communities. That leads to underreporting of hate crimes and bias incidents to law enforcement, especially at the earliest stages of the appearance of a potential threat.

So, for all the progress we have made, much more is required to build the trust needed for effective law enforcement. We vow to reach out and to listen better – and to act. And we call on the Department of Justice to redouble its efforts to work with and encourage its state and local partners to do even more to address acts of hatred and bigotry, including by maintaining and providing better data regarding them.

For each of us, the Department of Justice has been our professional home, but it also represents so much more. Since the moment of its birth in 1870, a core value of the Justice Department has been the fight to protect the most vulnerable among us. The men and women who make up its ranks carry on this proud tradition today, and will do so again and again, whenever and wherever there are communities under threat because of their race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or orientation.

Finally, we want to say this clearly. Those who encourage and incite hatred and violence also bear responsibility for these acts of horror. Words matter — whether you spew hatred in public or from the dark corners of social media. We are aware of what you are doing, there are far more of us than there are of you, and now, we are more united than ever.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

5 Things To Know About... US Attorney BJay Pak
5 Things To Know About... US Attorney BJay Pak

The above open letter was signed by more than 130 former U.S. Attorneys who represented jurisdictions from coast to coast. Atlantan BJay Pak, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 2017 to 2021, was among the signatories and a leader in this effort.

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