Hate crimes against Asian-Americans have continued to surge as the community has become increasingly targeted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Most recently on March 17, was the brutal murder of eight women at three different Atlanta-area massage parlors. Six out of eight victims were Asian women, whose lives were taken away at the hands of a white gunman named Aaron Long.
Long claims that his actions were not motivated by race. That instead, he suffers from a “sex addiction,” which caused him to lash out at these parlors to eliminate a temptation. This narrative spun by Long has been supported by the Cherokee County sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker, yet another white male in power, who claims that Long was just having a “bad day”.
This public statement by Baker, making blatant excuses for a murderer and attempting to dispute the notion that this was a hate crime, is infuriating. Since when are we believing the word of a murder and reporting it as fact? If the shooter were a person of color, there is no doubt in my mind that excuses of any kind would not have been made on behalf of the killer. These dismissive excuses only serve one purpose: to uphold white supremacy by diminishing the reality of what this act of anti-Asian violence really was—a hate crime.
It is a sad reality that this is not the first police officer who has hindered the process of delivering justice, particularly on behalf of marginalized communities. Although this is not true of all police officers, it highlights a problem within the entire American justice system itself. We’ve seen this in the countless incidents of police brutality committed against black Americans, where justice remained unserved until highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, we are seeing this flaw in our justice system with the failure to charge anti-Asian violence as hate crimes.
These dismissive excuses only serve one purpose: to uphold white supremacy by diminishing the reality of what this act of anti-Asian violence really was—a hate crime.
That is why, when I first heard the news about the shooting, I was sent through a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions. My body instantly went cold, filled with a deep sadness prompted by the thought of how easily I, or a family member, could have been one of those women. How many of these women left their lives behind in Korea to come to America for a better life, only to be shot and killed by a terrorist. I felt for the families of these women, imagining them being forced to listen to these blatant excuses from the American justice system that has failed them. How can America continue to turn a blind eye to these acts of anti-Asian violence that are so blatantly hate crimes? Yet, as I am asking myself this question, I realize that, in fact, it’s not shocking in the slightest.
Living in WW-P, there are countless times where I feel sheltered in this bubble of privilege. In this community I am part of the majority, as WW-P has a predominant Asian population. I have never felt afraid stepping outside in public. Although, it is times like these that remind me of the sad reality of America: the moment I take one step outside of this bubble, as an Asian-American woman, I am a target.
The downplaying of anti-Asian hate crimes is not an unfamiliar circumstance for the Asian community. Throughout American history, Asians have been silenced and ignored when speaking out about the racist acts committed towards our community. In major cities, Asian-American hate crimes have risen 150%, according to Vox News. We have desperately called out for help as our elders have been pushed down in streets, physically assaulted, and now brutally murdered. Yet we have been met with silence, and if not silence, then countless excuses. The fact of the matter is, the Asian community has not been silent. We have been silenced.
My hopes are that this horrific tragedy allows for America to come together to confront the racist hate crimes the Asian community has endured. I hope that what currently feels like a shout in the dark becomes the chant of crowds everywhere. I hope for the justice of these women. That the names of these women are never forgotten. That their stories prompt change.
Georgia Shooting Memorial: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Outside Spa: Agence France-Presse
Georgia Shooting Victims: Instagram account @youcanbeam