Recently, Korean American singer-songwriter Eric Nam was interviewed by CNN to discuss the racism against Asians in America amidst the mass shooting incident in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Three Atlanta-area spa parlors were targeted in a hate crime that led to eight people’s deaths, six of whom were Asian women.

eric nam honestly
| CJ Entertainment

He explained that there had been warning signs from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), especially within the last year, concerning the increase of racism and violence against Asians in America. With the mass shooting incident, it is not until now that people are realizing how bad the number of hate crimes is right now.

Over the past year, we have been the loudest we’ve ever been. We have been asking for allies to stand with us and to fight with us and, unfortunately, all the warning signs, they kind of went unnoticed, they kind of landed on deaf ears. And it’s taken such an incredibly tragic and horrific event for this to really hit international and national news in a really targeted way and so it’s really heartbreaking and I wish that this could have been done in better situations, but this is where we are right now.

— Eric Nam

March In Solidarity With Asian Community Held In Atlanta, After Tuesday Night's Massage Parlor Killings
| Time Magazine

He expressed how disheartening and unfortunate it is that it has had to come to such a horrific incident for there to finally be a conversation held about racism against Asians in the United States. He shared that many Asian Americans, including himself, have been experiencing hate for years but are only just now being recognized as racist.

I think it comes from a place of ignorance, from a lack of education, and a lack of discourse, but absolutely myself, as I alluded to in my aped piece, there are so many moments where I felt targeted or discriminated against or things that can be casually racist words, ‘Is this racist? I’m not sure it is, but I’m not quite sure how to identify it,’ and we’ve never really had that kind of conversation.

— Eric Nam

protest
| Phil_Lewis_/Twitter

He talked about the daily struggle of living as an Asian American. He explained that others treat and speak to you in such as way that you feel like a foreigner in your own country.

The United States has a very incredible history but also a very dark history and a large part of the Asian-American experience has had a lot of the potent moments of that darkness that was kind of swept under the rug that we haven’t really properly addressed. I think from the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese American Internment, there are so many moments of histroy we can point to and discuss, but in sense of the perpetual foreigner, it can be as casual as like, ‘Where are you from?,’ ‘Where are you really from?,’ for me, it’s always Atlanta, but it’s as if I’m not from there…

— Eric Nam

eric bros
Eric with his brothers | @ednam10/Instagram

While Eric was born and raised in Atlanta and English was his first language, people would oftentimes make microaggressive remarks or ask, “Why is your English so good?” or “Where did you learn English?” 

In many ways, it makes me feel like, ‘Do I not belong here?,’ ‘Why am I here?,’ and ‘How do I identify?’ I think this is something that so many of us in the community have dealt with our entire lives and I think that’s why so much of this racism can also be very casual and can kind of sneak up on us in many ways.

— Eric Nam

He briefly touched on the reaction and response throughout Asia to the increase of hate crimes throughout America. He said that, for most, there’s a hesitancy to think of America positively. When Asians are planning to travel or study abroad, people often ask, “Are you sure? It’s a little unsafe,” “I hope you have a safe trip,” or even “Do you have to go?” 

These instances are really rekindling and kind of adding fuel to the fire in terms of that sentiment which is I think very, very unfortunate considering that I believe and I truly love this country, The United States of America and so much of what it has offered to the world and the beauty of what the United States of America is and to see it kind of shown in that light has been really disheartening.

— Eric Nam

You can watch the full interview below.