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Asian American Journalists In North Texas Reflect On The Atlanta Killings & Covering Anti-Asian Hate

The Atlanta killings on March 16 left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent. For Asian American journalists in North Texas, covering this and other attacks targeting Asians means having to reexperience these stories of hate over and over again.

As a Korean American journalist who’s been covering the rise in Asian American hate over the past year, the last few weeks have been incredibly difficult. In journalism, we often don’t talk about what goes on behind the scenes and how challenging that can be.

Our job is to tell stories, but at its core that requires us to listen closely as people relive their traumas and rehash painful memories. It's hard not to take some of that home. Their stories remind you of your own wounds, the myriad ways your country refuses to fully embrace all of who you are.

There's also the fear for the safety of your family and yourself, which leads to anger as you wonder why you have to navigate this fear on top of everything else.

Sometimes I can ignore these fears until certain thoughts pop up, as I tell myself that nothing will happen to my mom because she's grocery shopping at H-Mart or when I promise myself that I'll eventually join a self-defense class so that the feeling of helplessness will subside. It's those few seconds as I stand by my car with my gear, steeling myself before reporting so that I won't be caught off guard if I face a racist encounter.

I couldn't help but wonder if other Asian American journalists felt the same. So I looked for some in the area to talk to — it was both saddening and unsurprising to discover that I couldn't find many Asian American journalists who're actively working, let alone those who've had a chance to help cover the Asian American community.

I was able to talk with Tiffany Liou from WFAA, Tom Huang from the Dallas Morning News and Alanna Quillen from NBC 5. They shared what it’s been like processing the Atlanta killings, their experiences with racism and why in the face of all that, they’re still so committed to being journalists.

Tiffany Liou is a multimedia reporter at WFAA.

I've experienced hate my entire life. You know, I've experienced it especially as a journalist - it almost is like a double whammy being Asian and being a journalist.

I didn't realize how much it would impact me because we see shootings every day. So when the shooting in Atlanta happened, I kind of thought I would process it like I do any other incident.

It just hit extra hard. I think it's because I'm tired of seeing all this violence toward Asians in America.

I did a perspectives piece, like a commentary. It aired and one minute later somebody messaged me on my personal Facebook account, somebody I didn't know and said, "you've never been discriminated against. You're such a sellout chink."

I've experienced hate my entire life. You know, I've experienced it especially as a journalist, it almost is like a double whammy being Asian and being a journalist.

This should have been covered so long ago. But I also know that it's never too late to start now — and so that's why I'm so invested in this.

Evans Caglage
Tom Huang, photographed November 8, 2012.

I believe that you can't separate the human experience from the experience as a journalist.

When I see a story about massive violence in Atlanta where eight people have been shot and killed and six of them are Asian women, I can't help but have not only a journalistic response, but also a personal response to that.

I grew up when I was a kid. I knew that I was different, I knew that I was Chinese American, I knew that my parents had come from another place.

Growing up in Boston and smaller college towns in the Midwest, I would just face a lot of bullying and racism from the kids.

It was just something that I knew was there and hated it. But it did kind of shape the idea that whatever I do, I need to help represent those in marginalized communities.

The main thing I would want people to know is that you can't separate the human experience from the experience as a journalist.

Alanna Quillen is a reporter at NBC 5.

I know there's a lot of fear and confusion and just a lot of unknown wondering when's the next thing that's going to happen. But strangely, at the same time, I've never felt more proud to be Asian American.

I, too, was in shock when I was hearing about a mass shooting in Atlanta.

When I saw that, I was just like, are you kidding me? This can't be real. Like, why and why now, after everything we've been talking about for the last few months? It made me feel angry.

I was interviewing someone the other day and I was starting to cry while I was asking her a question, because it's something she shared with me about her own parents being immigrants from Vietnam. Just, you know, how they just were treated differently throughout their lives and made to feel less than. So it made me think about my mother and my family and then I just started to get emotional while asking her further questions. I'm like, I've never done this before.

I know there's a lot of fear and confusion and just a lot of unknown wondering when's the next thing that's going to happen. But strangely, at the same time, I've never felt more proud to be Asian American ... truly.

Got a tip? Email Elizabeth Myong at Emyong@KERA.org. You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @Elizabeth_Myong.

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