My feelings about the Atlanta spa murders bounce between being really sad and extremely angry. Of course, I’m devastated by the loss of life. But the false notion that this is an incident unrelated to a broader societal pathology is infuriating.
As the Boston Globe indicated, This time needs to be different for Asian Americans. “Violence and racist acts against Asian Americans are not new — see the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps…” Anti-Asian policies and attitudes in the U.S. date back several decades.
“This is a fraught moment for Asian Americans everywhere. The community is on edge, bringing us back to the 1980s when anti-Asian sentiment ran high as Japanese carmakers crippled the US auto industry. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American, became collateral damage when he was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Michigan by a Chrysler autoworker and his out-of-work stepson. The two white men received zero prison time.
“Chin’s killing ushered in a new era of Asian American activism. The Atlanta murders must serve as another tipping point in this country to recognize that the racism against Asian Americans is deeper than most people realize and that we need to stamp it out.”
Of course, Americans are largely ahistorical people. So let’s look at more recent trends. Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian, has written a lengthy post on Facebook. I recommend the whole post.
After touting the great US relationship with China as recently as mid-February 2020, 45 “began to turn on China… He insisted that China had not told him about the deadly nature of the virus, and began to call it the ‘Chinese virus’” or the ‘Chy-na virus,'” his preferred Sinophobic slur.
“By April 17, a Republican strategy document urged candidates to deflect attention from the nation’s disastrous coronavirus news by attacking China… Democrats would not stand up to China, the document told Republican candidates to say, but ‘I will stand up to China, bring our manufacturing jobs back home, and push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.'”
While the previous regime said otherwise, the intelligence community concluded that China did not try to influence the election.
Still, with the politicization of the pandemic, hate crimes against Asian-Americans began to rise. There were about 3800 of them between March 19, 2020, and February 28, 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate.
Chinese are the largest ethnic group (42.2%) that report experiencing hate, followed by Koreans (14.8%), Vietnamese (8.5%), and Filipinos (7.9%). Women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.
Moreover, per the Boston Globe: “Six of the eight victims were Asian women. As much as some may have wanted to believe it wasn’t another racially motivated hate crime, it’s impossible to disentangle racism from misogyny in the white shooter’s denial of a racial motive — threaded, as it was, with a racist trope. It wasn’t Asian Americans he wanted to eliminate, you see. It was Asian-American temptresses.”
(And WTH? Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) glorifies lynching in a rant during a hearing on anti-Asian attacks. Let’s trade in one bigoted imagery for another?)
So, yes, these were hate crimes, as Trevor Noah said of the murderer. (I’m leaving off the word “alleged” since he has reportedly confessed; mentally insert it, if you need to.). We shan’t be gaslighted. The killer didn’t have a really bad day.
Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, died. Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49, died. Paul Andre Michels, 54, died. Daoyou Feng, 44, died. Soon C. Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong A. Yue, all died. Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, 30 is still fighting for his life. They and their families and friends had a really bad day.
It’s time to stop the hate. I’m unclear about the efficacy of online hashtags, but I’ll do it anyway. #STOPASIANHATE