(CNN) — Former NBA star Jeremy Lin says violence towards Asian Americans is “hitting differently” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lin was speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper following the killing of eight people at three Atlanta-area spas earlier this week, six of whom were Asian.
Lin, who spent nine years in the NBA and currently plays for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, has recently spoken out about how the pandemic has exacerbated anti-Asian violence, notably after saying he was called “coronavirus” during a basketball game.
“Growing up it was always something that might be a little more subtle or verbal, but I think what we’re seeing right now is a lot of physical, actual violence, lives being taken,” Lin said.
“A lot of Asian Americans who are looking over their shoulders when they go outside, when they go to the grocery store, and we’re starting to slowly see more and more reporting of what is going on.
“But this is something that is definitely hitting different.”
Police say that 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long is suspected of opening fire at the spas late Tuesday afternoon and early evening, first at a business about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, followed by two more at spas in northeastern Atlanta.
According to Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds, preliminary information indicates that the killings may not have been racially motivated, but instead could relate to the suspect’s claim of a potential sex addiction.
But because of the victims’ backgrounds, public officials have raised fears that ethnicity had come into play given the backdrop of rising anti-Asian violence amid the pandemic.
“It feels like it’s happening more, and it feels like it’s getting worse and even for me, I’m starting to question: ‘Oh, if I speak out more, am I encouraging more people to have even more hate, by other people seeing these headlines?'” Lin said when asked about the Atlanta shootings.
Advocates and authorities have received reports of thousands of xenophobic attacks against Asian people since the pandemic began.
Lin, who became the first Asian American to win an NBA title in 2019 while with the Toronto Raptors, says he was targeted multiple times with racist slurs during his college basketball career and that Covid-19 has intensified a pre-existing problem.
“We’re seeing all these micro-aggressions through history,” Lin said.
“Asians have always been projected as being others or outsiders and you can hear and see these micro-aggressions, like: ‘Where are you really from?’ or talking about the way that we look or our complexion or things like that.”
Lin also pointed to how he thinks certain rhetoric around the virus has contributed to anti-Asian discrimination. Former US President Donald Trump, for example, received criticism for referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” during his presidency.
“There are so many micro-aggressions that contribute to that and again, calling it the China virus, Kung Flu virus, that is adding to it and fueling the fire,” he said.
“Now we’re starting to see a lot of those micro-aggressions turn into actual acts of violence. It is really hard to watch. I encourage people to watch these videos to see this is actually happening. These are real stories, real lives.”
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