The killing of eight people Tuesday night, who worked at three metro Atlanta massage parlors is the latest of attacks against Asian Americans amid the novel coronavirus. Six of the eight victims were identified as Asian women causing a national uproar that more must be done to protect Asian Americans from the increased number of hate crimes across the country.
New data released by Stop AAPI Hate Tuesday found that almost 3,800 incidents of hate were reported over the last year during the pandemic. The number is significantly higher than last year’s count of 2,800 hate incidents reported over the span of five months, according to NBC News. It is likely to be higher than 3,800 due to the number of crimes that go unreported nationwide daily. “The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination,” STOP AAPI Hate said in a statement.
Of the 3,800 anti-hate incidents reported 68% targeted women. Additionally, the report noted that more than 500 of the incidents occurred in 2021 alone. According to data compiled by STOP AAPI Hate, while Chinese Americans have been more frequently targeted than any other group, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Filipinos amongst others have also reported incidents.
The newly released data follows an analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. According to the analysis, while hate crimes in the U.S.’s 16 largest cities decreased overall by 7% in 2020, those targeting AAPI people rose by nearly 150%.
Despite claims that the attacks Tuesday were not racially motivated, California Rep. Judy Chu, the chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, noted that the latest attack on Asian Americans Tuesday is a result of bigotry the last administration has used. Referring to Donald Trump and his minions’ use of dehumanizing xenophobic rhetoric including “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and “Kung Flu,” Chu said: “It’s clear the individuals were targeted because they are amongst the vulnerable in our country, immigrant Asian women.”
While an increase in the number of crimes against Asian community members began in January 2020, the number surged after former President Donald Trump began using xenophobic language to refer to the novel coronavirus and blamed China for the spread, according to Stop AAPI Hate. “Cause it comes from China. It’s not racist at all, no, not at all. It comes from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate,” Trump said according to CNN. Multiple reports examining the link between political rhetoric and anti-Asian bias found that discrimination against the Asian American community increased after the use of such terms, Daily Kos reported. Despite this known trend, the night of the killings Trump still used the term “China virus” to describe COVID-19 in an interview with Fox News.
Police officials arrested the suspect in connection to the horrific attacks, a 21-year-old white man named Robert Aaron Long, however, claimed that no racial motive was involved. Instead, police officials said that the attacks were possibly linked to sexual addiction. “During his interview, he gave no indicators that this was racially motivated,” Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Wednesday. “We asked him that specifically and the answer was no.” According to officials, Long frequented the types of businesses he targetted and chose them because he considered them “some type of porn industry” he needed to eliminate because of temptation.
This incident sheds light on a number of issues including the fact that white terrorists are never called terrorists and clearly racially motivated crimes are often not labeled as what they are, hate crimes. Hate crimes against the Asian American community are at an all-time high and women especially are vulnerable due to the stereotypes associated with them.
“If you talk to the average Asian American woman, most of us have been subject to varying degrees of sexual harassment that targets our gender and racial identities,” Yale University Sociology Department Chair Grace Kao said. “They do not exist separately in the lives of individuals.” Kao, an expert on Asian American studies, noted how the shooter targeted Asian American given the fact that “Asian American women have been viewed as exotic and feminine objects in US mass media and suspected of prostitution from the earliest US immigration restrictions.”
Asian women have been sexualized in multiple media depictions. These stereotypes while many believe are unharmful because they are portrayed only on “screen” impact the daily lives of Asian American women.
Part of addressing the issue of violence against POC communities is calling it what it is, reporting on how kind the shooter was and how he was a “super nice, super Christian,” is not relevant. This same reporting is not given to people of color and your race should not determine how awful your crime is. We must not only reform our criminal justice system but how the media portrays individuals. This incident is a horrific, heartbreaking hate crime that reminds us that our country is in dire need of change. We can longer stand for the injustices minorities face and must address the hate the former administration spread across the country.
COVID-19 is not the only pandemic America has been infected with. For generations, Asian Americans have faced hate and discrimination at the hands of white folks. Stereotypes can be traced to what scholars call the “yellow peril,” an ideology where white folks claimed things from Asia were a great threat to the white world. Historians and other academics found that this ideology, amongst other xenophobia, influenced U.S. policies on the basis “that Chinese people as a race, no matter where they are, are disease carriers.” As a result, anti-Asian laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were enacted to block Asian immigration.
Additionally, Chinese migrants have historically faced invasive and humiliating medical inspections that other immigrants were not subjected to. During the bubonic plague and severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, Chinese people faced similar xenophobia, as several were unable to go to work or considered “unclean,” as Daily Kos has reported.
This hate is not new, but we can no longer let it continue. Enough is enough. We must #StopAAPIHate. Beyond spreading information on social media, we must hold ourselves accountable and acknowledge the stereotypes we perpetuate and “jokes” we let slide.
Dismantling hate begins at home with ourselves, we must normalize calling it out.
“We are appalled and devastated at the violence in Georgia that has taken eight lives, six of whom were Asian American women,” Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said. “We mourn with the families of these victims. We are horrified and continue to be concerned for the safety of our community members across the country as violence toward Asian Americans has escalated. Elected officials in Georgia must support these families and speak up immediately against hate and violence directed at the Asian American community.”
“We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Asian hate and violence disproportionately impacts women,” Choimorrow said. “More than 68 percent of reported incidents of anti-Asian harassment and violence have been from women. Even before the pandemic and the racist scapegoating that came in its wake, AAPI women routinely experienced racialized misogyny. Now, our community, and particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs, are bearing the brunt of continued vilification.”
According to USA Today, Congress will debate the issue of how to address the country’s rise in anti-Asian hate and discrimination this week. Lawmakers have proposed an anti-hate crime bill to combat the issue, outside of this bill no legislation currently exists directed towards anti-Asian bigotry and discrimination.
There are multiple ways we can support the Asian American community offline and online. Check out this list of resources compiled by Atlanta artist and activist known as @Sasponella on Twitter and Instagram has complied a list of resources. Organized state by state, there are both organizations you can support or volunteer with to end this violence listed on the document.
This action card also allows you to find resources that have been gathered to help individuals educate others, take action, donate, and more. From checking in with your friends and loved ones in the AAPI community to supporting movements to end hate, no action is too small. Further resources can be found on this Twitter thread, let’s work to make sure everyone feels and is safe.
Hate is a virus. If you have any more resources that you would like to share, please comment with them below.