What to say to support Asian American friends after Lunar New Year shooting

It can be tough to know what to say in wanting to support the D.C.-area Asian American and Pacific Islander community following the deadly mass shooting Saturday in Monterey Park, California. But one member of the community said it can be as easy as a simple greeting.

The shooting at a Lunar New Year celebration happened across the country, but John C. Yang with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC told WTOP that it feels very personal to some who have felt threatened or unsafe in the past, especially after a marked rise of race-based hate crimes against Asian Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“People do not feel as safe as they would like to feel. And let’s be clear, obviously, in this particular incident, it was an Asian American shooter. But that doesn’t minimize the effect that it has on the Asian American community having another act of mass violence,” Yang said.

The fact the shooting happened during a celebration is especially tough.

“What Lunar New Year is, to people in the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities, is a time for our family to gather to express hope for our loved ones, good fortunes for the year to come, and really to celebrate. And to have that taken away because of this tragedy is something that is really quite traumatic; and I think people should acknowledge and help their friends and family to deal with,” he said.

In talking to friends who may need support, he suggested offering a simple holiday greeting.

“Just as we would say, to each other, ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ to say, ‘Happy New Year,’ to people that you know who celebrate Lunar New Year, and let them pick that conversation where they want to take, take it.”

Yang said depending on how far they want to take the conversation, it may help to acknowledge the shooting and say, ‘I’m here for you.’

There are myriad mental health resources, including 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, for those who are struggling with the tragedy. Yang said there are also support lines for those who do not speak English. Find more resources in the directory of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice website.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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