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How one Asian-owned business in Georgia is responding to the Atlanta spa shootings

Published: Mar. 21, 2021 at 11:59 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - “With all that going on, I feel more that I have to watch over my shoulder everywhere I go,” said David Huynh.

Huynh is the owner of Envy Nail Bar on Broughton Street in downtown Savannah. He says he’s faced discrimination as a minority and was devastated to learn about the deadly attacks in Atlanta. Since then, he’s taken steps to protect his employees and clients.

“Even being at work at my salon here and every night that we close up and during the day you feel that you have to heighten your security up and be more aware and alert of your surroundings because of situations like this,” he said.

Asian Americans have faced attacks across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Sumie Okazaki, professor of applied psychology at New York University has collected data from hundreds of Asian Americans around the country on the types of racist and xenophobic attacks they’ve experienced within the last year.

“Thirty-four percent said they had been verbally attacked. Twenty-four percent said they have faced workplace discrimination. Sixteen percent said they have been coughed or spat upon. This kind of low level everyday acts of discrimination I think have been widely felt throughout our community,” she said.

Okazaki says 12 percent of participants were physically assaulted. She says it’s rare but not uncommon. In fact, she says it’s a concern many in the community worry about, especially the elderly.

Authorities leading the investigation into the deadly attacks in Atlanta have also come under fire after the shooter claimed his acts of violence were due to a sexual addiction.

“He is specifically going out of his way, driving many miles in between the two shootings to target Asian-owned businesses that Asian American immigrant women work at. To us, to be dismissed as ‘Oh this isn’t racist because the suspect said it wasn’t’ — it just kind of dismisses our experience, collectively and I think also what seems so clear in the eyes of many who have faced gendered and sexualized violence,” said Okazaki.

She says we must continue to educate ourselves on how racism works in our communities. Both Okazaki and Huynh believe it’s important to be be able to name racism when we see it.

“By calling them out, it might change them by letting them know that that is not the right thing to do because again some people are raised to believe that and feel that way. By calling them out we will fix the problems,” said Huynh.

The investigation into the deadly shootings in Atlanta is still ongoing.

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