A Dallas, Texas choir performs a hymn in honor of the lives lost during the Allen mall shooting. In the foreground, a table is covered with colorful tapestries and framed photos of the victims and their families.

Why Aren’t Authorities Treating the Texas Mall Shooting as Anti-AAPI Hate?

June 2023
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One month after the shooting at a mall in Allen, Texas, Stop AAPI Hate co-founders Cynthia Choi and Manjusha Kulkarni reflect on the role of racism in the massacre — and why law enforcement has downplayed it as a motivating factor.

One month after the horrific shooting in Allen, Texas, Asian American communities nationwide remain devastated. Eight people, including little children, were killed and seven people were wounded.

As Korean and Indian women and mothers ourselves, we see ourselves in the victims: The Korean American family who was slain, leaving behind a six-year-old boy. The Indian immigrant woman who lost her life just days away from celebrating her 27th birthday. 

And as leaders of the Stop AAPI Hate coalition, we know our communities are no strangers to the destruction hate leaves in its wake.

In the aftermath of the Allen massacre, our pain has been further compounded by law enforcement authorities’ apparent dismissal of the role of racism and bigotry in the attack — something they are still continuing to minimize. For us, it’s incomprehensible that a Texas Department of Public Safety official characterized the killing as “random” and claimed that race “didn’t matter” in the shooting. 

Racism mattered here. And the role it played is something that we demand authorities and policymakers investigate and address.

The public has already seen the shooter’s trove of diary entries and social media posts in which he openly subscribed to white supremacy, fantasized about race wars, and brandished Nazi tattoos — and today, we’re still learning more about his hate-fueled, anti-Asian beliefs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has shared previously unreported information directly with us that further substantiates his targeted hatred of Asian people. More specifically, the newly uncovered content shows the gunman viciously denigrated people from South Asia.

On January 10, 2023, he wrote: “Curry skin is a curse. But then you combine it with subpar bone structure, height and slave mindset and you get the lowest SMV [sexual market value] race…Curry Exterminaton [sic] would be a good new year present to the entire world.”

His online rants are so dense with hate that multiple centers devoted to examining extremism are analyzing it and releasing their findings. Analyses of his writing find that his virulent racism repeatedly targeted people of Asian descent. As confirmed by SPLC, he used slurs like “sand monkey,” “f*cking cat eater,” “slopes” and “curry eating b*tch.” He portrayed East Asians as foreign invaders, and he consistently dehumanized South Asians.

We also know that before the massacre, the shooter – a self-proclaimed white supremacist – carried out the attack in a tactical vest with a “Right Wing Death Squad” patch. He scouted the peak crowd times at the mall in Allen, a place that local residents indicate “largely attracted shoppers of color, especially those of Asian descent,” and where “shoppers would often be dressed in saris and salwars” – traditional Indian garbs. 

The mall was 20 miles away from his home in Dallas, where the percentage of Asians is a small fraction of what it is in Allen. On the day of the attack, he shot 15 people there, almost all of whom identified so far are people of color, including at least six Asians.

A few weeks ago, local organizations like Asian Texans for Justice, SAAVETX and the Dallas Asian American Historical Society publicly demanded a thorough investigation into the shooter’s racial motives. They feel abandoned and therefore even more vulnerable to another violent attack— so much so that a group of South Asian community members scrapped plans for a vigil because they felt they would be “sitting ducks.” 

We are all too familiar with the tendency for authorities to dismiss anti-AAPI hate. We were met with such dismissals after the Atlanta spa shootings, when a man targeted Asian spas and gunned down eight people, most of whom were Asian women. And after the Indianapolis shooting, where the gunman killed eight people, including four Sikh Americans, at an FedEx facility known for employing people who are Sikh. Every time our experiences and fears are minimized, it is retraumatizing, and healing becomes nearly impossible.

Once again, in the immediate aftermath of tragedy, we find ourselves asking: Why do authorities continue to discount the role of racism and anti-AAPI hate? It’s a dangerous, harmful pattern that must end.

Stop AAPI Hate co-founders, Cynthia Choi and Manjusha Kulkarni

Given the fact that violent, extremist ideologies like white supremacy, neo-Nazism and incel culture are on the rise and becoming more deadly, we must begin to recognize targeted hate when we see it. Otherwise, we risk normalizing it, leaving not only Asian Americans but also all those most likely to be targeted — other people of color, religious minorities, disabled people, LGBTQ+ communities and others — in harm’s way.

Our leaders, from law enforcement authorities to elected officials, must directly address the role that racism and bigotry played in the horrific Allen shooting. At the very least, they should refrain from so quickly dismissing its influence in attacks like this and instead consider and advocate for policy changes that improve the way targeted hate is identified. 

For example, when it comes to law enforcement, authorities routinely identify hate through established symbols like a noose or a swastika, but designation of anti-Asian hate is not universally identifiable through specific symbols. The absence of a universal anti-Asian symbol may preclude law enforcement from considering targeted hate and racism as motivating factors in attacks like the Allen massacre. This must change.

Tackling the root causes of anti-AAPI hate first and foremost requires an explicit acknowledgement of its existence and its influence in heinous acts like the shootings in Allen, Atlanta and Indianapolis. It won’t bring back any of the lives that were lost. But it can, absolutely, help prevent tragedies like this from happening again.