Statement of the Rev. Fr. Douglas A. Greenaway
President & CEO of the National WIC Association
On the Violence in the Atlanta Area Tuesday
This past Tuesday, eight people in the Atlanta area, including six Asian women, were tragically murdered. In custody for their deaths is a 21-year-old white male. His expressed motive? To remove the temptation of his sexual addiction. Why might we ask, are their deaths and his violence of relevance or importance to us? The short answer is that like each of us, they loved and were loved; they were once someone’s daughter or son, sister or brother, partner or wife, mother or father. You see, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not, we are all inextricably connected. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
We may never know the full story of this tragedy. Still, it cannot escape our attention that the targeting of Asian-owned businesses and Asian women by this young man was in part deliberate. Regardless of the alleged murderer's expressed motives, it is hard to deny that hate was likely a portion of the crime. Hate is anathema to our essential purpose, our call to love one another. When we hate, we render another invisible; we cancel their humanity.
No one can deny that hate crimes are rising across the country – most recently, hate crimes are specifically targeted towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Stop AAPI Hate has tracked more than 3,700 reports of anti-Asian violence and discrimination since the beginning of the pandemic, targeting individuals of many ethnicities and backgrounds. The majority of these crimes specifically target women.
The Atlanta area murders draw yet another connection between the rise in lethal hate crimes and the unregulated access to deadly weapons. NWA has joined other medical and public health groups in declaring firearm-related violence a public health crisis. It is in the hands of policymakers to take reasonable and necessary common-sense steps to regulate access to firearms, that we may build safer communities free from hate-driven acts of violence.
This week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reiterated his commitment to dismantling structural racism in the nation’s food and nutrition safety net. Over 350,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander women, babies, and young children rely on WIC services to ensure access to healthy foods and assure their children get a healthy start to life. While I may know their engagement with WIC, AAPI families are left out of data collections that inform outreach efforts and programmatic decisions.
Our WIC family joins in support of and in solidarity with our AAPI staff, colleagues, and participants. Anti-Asian violence, anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism manifests themselves when we fail to acknowledge it in our midst when we fail to dismantle the structures, attitudes, and effects of white supremacy.
When tragedies like the Atlanta area murders occur, we are presented with the opportunity to look inward, to ask ourselves crucial questions of complicity. What part might we play, intentionally or unintentionally, in dismissing or embracing those near to us or far from us, those like us, or unlike us? What part might we play, intentionally or unintentionally, in aiding or ignoring those among us who are lost, who might perpetrate such violence?
Archbishop Tutu’s friend and contemporary, the Hon. Nelson Mandela offered these words to encourage us. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Please stand with your colleagues in the National WIC Association in fighting for safe, equitable communities free from racism, misogyny, and violence.
Resources for Asian American and Pacific Islander Individuals and Communities
Stop AAPI Hate: Safety Tips and Know Your Rights.
Mental Health America: Asian American Pacific Islander Communities And Mental Health.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Asian American and Pacific Islander Resources.
Electric Lit: A Literary Guide to Combat Anti-Asian Racism in America.
Hollaback: Free Virtual Bystander Intervention Trainings.