Even as police say they’re working to determine Tran’s motives, I’m ultimately not reassured. As some of the insensitive reactions to the shooting suggest, there are serious problems with how we talk about hate crimes and violent perpetrators’ motives in the aftermath of tragedy, often ignoring or dismissing the trauma endured by their victims in the process. In 2021, police in Atlanta, Georgia, denied that the white, male shooter’s attacks on Asian women-run spas constituted anti-Asian hate because he appeared to target Asian women; the distinct interplay of gender and race to victimize Asian women apparently hadn’t occurred to law enforcement. What ensued was a painful, dehumanizing public conversation that almost squarely wrote Asian-American women out of a story about us, and the dual, day-to-day oppressions we face under white supremacy and patriarchy.

Now, as we embark on reckoning with yet another mass shooting and another devastating anti-Asian hate incident, I hope Monterey Park and Asian communities are centered in our conversations. I hope we don’t see another tragedy weaponized to call for hate crime legislation that further funds police and prisons. And I hope that regardless of what we learn about the shooting suspect and his possible motives, we can validate the trauma and pain of Asian Americans at this time.