On March 16, 2021, eight people, six of them Asian-American women, were killed during a shooting at three massage/spa parlors in the Atlanta area. Although this was truly devastating, to many, it was not a surprise.
After the shooting, a poll from an anti-Asian group was posted on a platform called Telegram that asked: “Appalled by the recent attacks on Asians?”. The top answer (84 percent) was no, explaining that the violence was “justified retaliation for Covid”.
With the beginning of the pandemic only a year ago, Asian-Americans have faced racist violence at a much higher rate than in previous years. According to the advocacy group, Stop AAPI Hate, 3,795 reports of anti-Asian discrimination have been received between March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021. Of this number, women reported hate crimes 2.3 times more than men did.
At the Atlanta shooting, after his arrest, the police announced that the shooter was looking to address a “sexual addiction” and that it was “not racially motivated”. However, for Asian women, racism and misogyny are often intertwined. Asian women are frequently viewed as being either submissive, compliant, and sexualized, or being evil, conniving, and sexualized. Either way, Asian women are sexualized and exoticized, and these harmful stereotypes contribute to the oppression of Asian-American women which was clearly demonstrated by the March sixteenth mass shooting.
This objectification of Asian women is rooted back to the history of America in the first immigration of Asians. Since the 1850’s Asian Americans have always been subject to racist violence. With the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (where the United States banned the immigration of Chinese immigrants), to Japanese internment camps during WWII, there has never not been a time in the United States where Asians have faced racism. Even before the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, there was the Chinese massacre of 1871 (where 19 Chinese residents were murdered by a mob in Los Angeles), and the Page Exclusion Act of 1875 (the nation’s first restrictive immigration law, prohibiting the entry of Chinese women).
The current surge in Asian-American hate crimes was aggravated by former president Donald Trump, who at the beginning of the pandemic made comments such as “kung flu” and referred to it as “the China virus”. The specific choice of words chosen by Trump only encouraged anti-Asian xenophobia and made it seem as if Asian-Americans are not true citizens of the United States of America.
“When I first heard of the shooting I obviously felt awful but sadly it wasn’t something that surprised me. Ever since the negative actions towards Asians spiked because of Covid I was honestly disappointed with the amount of discrimination the community still faced. I’m glad this issue is finally being addressed after being put aside for the longest of times and excusing it from racism,” Masuk junior Jane Ding states.
Since then, current President Joe Biden has moved to undo the damage Trump encouraged. Shortly after taking office, he signed an Executive Order denouncing anti-Asian discrimination. On March eleventh, during a speech on the pandemic’s 1 year anniversary, he stated that hate crimes against Asian-Americans are “un-American” and that they “must stop”. This was only five days before the shooting in Atlanta.
Anti-Asian discrimination and/or hateful comments and actions do not only occur in metro areas. Although Monroe is small, it is not exempt from anti-Asian xenophobia. Members of the local Asian community have commented that they and their families have heard and experienced emotionally hurtful comments in Monroe.
“Although I’ve always experienced subtle racist comments that deal with stereotypes, because of how normalized this type of Asian hate has become I never took it personally even though I should. These small comments assume one’s character and are actually pretty dehumanizing and insensitive. And the frequency that they appear is worrisome because people don’t even notice how hurtful it could be towards others,” Ding added.
According to data from Stop AAPI Hate, verbal harassment made up 68.1 percent of the reports filed in 2020-2021, while shunning (deliberate avoidance of Asian-Americans) made up 20.5 percent. More than a third of reported incidents occurred at businesses, the primary site of discrimination, and a quarter took place in public streets. Trends show that there was a “lull” in reported hate crimes from Summer to Fall of 2020, but numbers rose again at the end of Winter/ beginning of Spring 2021. Instead of continuing on a downward trend, after the comments/actions became normalized.
With the increased attention after the shooting, the number of reported incidents is once again on the rise. It is also important to note that crimes are occurring even if they are not widely broadcast.
Currently, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an ongoing challenge to “slap an Asian” that has put the police department on high alert. Word of this challenge, where people are told to slap Asian-Americans on public transit, has been spreading through social media this week. One post claims that a challenge-related assault occurred on Friday, March 19, 2021.
On our side of the country, in New York City, the police department is investigating a reported assault that occurred inside a Midtown subway station on Saturday, March 27, 2021. According to the authorities, a man was accused of physically and verbally assaulting a woman before walking away. Police have released security footage of the man leaving the subway.
Thankfully, actions calling for the end of anti-Asian hate have been promoted. On March 27, 2021, dozens of rallies were held in cities across the nation marching for the end of recent violence. The group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) stated that they organized 60 rallies on that Saturday. Across the different rallies, it was agreed that these murders must be charged as hate crimes. The police investigation is still underway.
To highlight the need for change, the Empire State Building will shine tower lights in gold and black on Friday, April 2, 2021. Friday marks a virtual day of action to show support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and organizations alike are encouraged to participate.
It is important to admire how in times of crisis, the younger generations are stepping up to stand to protect their families and for what is right. Anti-Asian violence has not stopped and is not going to stop if we do not do something about it. Continue to talk about it, spread the word, protest and donate money to organizations that support those who have been affected. Our voices together will make a difference.