Who gets to decide what is racism, hate? Atlanta shootings renew debate over white violence, privilege

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When Frank Wu heard the news about this week’s mass shooting in Atlanta, he immediately wondered whether the racial aspects of the tragedy, whose victims were mostly Asian women, would be taken seriously.

“Who looks at that and says it’s random?” said Wu, president of Queens College, City University of New York. “How many Asian people have to be killed before you see a pattern? In Atlanta, if six of eight victims are Asian – I mean, you have to drive around to specific places to find them.”

Eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, were killed Tuesday in three shootings at Atlanta-area spas before police arrested 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long,a white man,and charged him with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

For many, the killings were clear acts of racism – and yet the notion seemed to draw pushback from authorities and critics on social media. We’re waiting for the evidence, they heard those institutions say. But the evidence, they thought, is in our experience. Experience reflecting centuries of white supremacy.

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