Updated: Apr 25
Trigger warning: this post discusses the increase of violence against AAPI folks and details about Georgia’s shooting.
For this week’s episode, How Dare You, a doctoral candidate in sociology and comedian Dominique Nisferos joins Remy to address the rise of violence against the Asian community and the intersection of racism and sexism around the hate crimes on March 16th in Atlanta.
We met Dominique because she posted a glorious video on her social media in response to the police’s claims following the crimes mentioned above. In this video, Dominique summarized her opinion about the police, white terrorism, Asian stereotypes (especially Asian women fetishization), the rise of violence against Asian communities, the use of sex addiction as an excuse for unacceptable behavior in white men, how some people choose silence in the face of injustice simply because “it’s not their place,” and how white supremacy aces at gaslighting the underrepresented majority (linked to the other post about the episode). Yes, all of that in a beautifully worded and short IGTV.
Ugh, but what is the big deal, right? Over half a million people have died in the last year thanks to Covid-19; Texas nearly froze to death in February, bushfire season is coming soon. It’s all going to hell. Again. Or is it still? Plus, thanks to having unreasonable gun control, aren’t there shootings like every other day in the US? How is this different? Why does this need to be shared on everyone’s social media? Why should I, a random white person, be posting about this instead of my general selfies? Sadly, we have become desensitized to human pain, particularly when we’re white folks who’ve never experienced systemic racism, so let’s break this down.
THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS A DETAILED RECOUNTING OF THE SHOOTING: IT’S VERY TRIGGERING. PLEASE SKIP THIS IF YOU NEED IT.
On March 16th, a white, cis, straight man (whose name isn’t relevant and should not be remembered) legally purchased a 9 mm handgun. He arrived at Young's Asian Massage and sat in the parking lot for an hour. Surveillance footage shows him entering the parlor from 3:38 pm to 4:50 pm. Police did not specify what happened during that time. A 911 call was made 4 minutes afterward. When police arrived, they found Xiaojie Tan and Delaina Ashley Yaun’s bodies and three wounded people, of whom two died at the hospital (Daoyou Feng and Paul Andre Michaels). At 5:47 pm, Atlanta police answered a “robbery” call at Gold Massage Spa. They found three dead women (Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, and Suncha Kim). Minutes later, the police received another call from across the street at Aromatherapy Spa. They found Yong Ae Yue’s body. The only survivors were Delaina’s husband, who hid from the gunman, and Elias Hernandez-Ortiz, who was shot in the forehead, lungs, and stomach. The white terrorist was arrested with his parents’ help three hours later as he intended to flee to Florida.
Okay, to us, the man behind these murders is a sexist white terrorist because he clearly targeted Asian women in three different massage parlors. Honestly, you only have to watch a couple of Bailey Sarian’s Make-up Monday Mystery Murder videos before you understand that society allows (and promotes) these violent, white, cis men to exist. But in this political climate we need confirmation and what is better than the police’s claims. Let’s break it down further.
THE FOLLOWING SECTION INCLUDES THE POLICE’S RESPONSE TO THE SHOOTING: IT’S VERY TRIGGERING. PLEASE SKIP THIS IF YOU NEED IT.
A year after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Georgia approved with bipartisan support a hate-crimes law that could add time to this white man’s sentence (you know, besides the eight counts of murder). However, police were quick to say, “his motives are under investigation” and “our investigation is looking into everything, nothing is off the table,” as if he didn’t specifically target Asian women in - I’ll say it again, in case you forgot - three different massage parlors. Why are his motives even a question? Because he told police, “the attacks weren’t racially motivated, I have a sex addiction, and I lashed out at the sources of temptation.” As if that wasn’t the very definition of fetishizing Asian women, an intersection of racism and sexism that can’t be overlooked, no matter how hard they try. But what’s worse, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Captain Jay Baker, said, “Robert Aaron Long (the murderer) had a bad day, and this is what he did''. Isn’t it a coincidence how much authorities are concerned for white men’s futures and how far they will go to sympathize with these cruel criminals just because of their white lineage (remember Brock Turner and what the judge said about him?). And isn’t it a coincidence how many black men were murdered on the spot for many “justifiable” reasons? Answer: no, it’s not.
Days later, Sheriff Frank Reynolds released a statement saying, “Baker’s comments stirred much debate and anger, and the agency regrets any heartache caused by his words…”, “In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy for the suspect...” “...Baker had a difficult task before him, one of the hardest in his 28 years in law enforcement”.
Basically, the white terrorist had a bad day, and the police captain who justified his actions had a difficult task. Aww, poor babies.
Honestly, let me just take a breather and explain something about acknowledgment with a dumb example: I got into a massive fight with my best friend last week, and in the aftermath, she said, “I’m sorry you feel like I hurt you, but I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I didn’t intend to do it” (basically). I haven’t been able to think about anything else because there’s a huge difference between saying “I’m sorry you feel hurt, I didn’t mean to cause you pain” and “I know I hurt you by doing this, I didn’t mean it. How can I change my behavior to stop hurting you / help you heal?”. The difference is genuine acknowledgment versus apologizing just because that's what you're supposed to do to cover your damn ass. A proper apology from Reynolds would’ve been more like, “Captain Jay Baker is a white boomer, and therefore isn’t aware of the intersection between racism and sexism involved in this obvious hate crime. He empathized with a mass shooter and will be fired. Everyone in the force will receive proper training on racist bias as of today.” Or something like that.
So it is bad enough, don’t you think? At least enough to acknowledge it on your social media or maybe donate to the victims’ GoFundMe pages instead of posting shit about Saint Patrick’s Day, right? Sadly, it doesn’t end there. These events happened in the context of an increase of hate crimes towards the Asian community.
THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH INCLUDES MENTIONS OF TRUMP AND THE ANTI-ASIAN SENTIMENT HE FOSTERED DURING THE FINAL MONTHS OF HIS PRESIDENCY: PLEASE SKIP THIS IF YOU NEED IT.
Trump is another excellent example of white, straight, cis men getting away with no consequences. He is directly culpable for the staggering number of Covid-19 deaths because he was too busy not taking it seriously, inflating his ego, and doing politics (more like reality TV). Double down with the many times he used derogatory terms and referred to this pandemic as “Chinese virus” and “Kung-flu.” He is very much guilty for making the US an even more violent place for AAPI folks (as well as Fox News, to be honest).
The Asian-American community has higher-than-average business ownership, and Asian-owned businesses were some of the earliest to experience declines at the early onset of the pandemic (including fears that COVID-19 could be transmitted through Chinese food).
Asian Americans have also filed a disproportionately high percentage of unemployment claims.
Approximately two million Asian Americans are working as essential workers. In the medical profession alone, Asian Americans constitute 20.4 percent of physicians and surgeons, 9.8 percent of registered nurses and therapists, 7.7 percent of healthcare technologists and technicians, and 6.9 percent of physician assistants, despite representing only 5.9 percent of the U.S. population.
The COVID-19 death toll has been devastating for Filipino-American nurses. Nearly one-third of all nurse deaths are Filipino-American, despite making up only 4% of all nurses in America.
Across the country, there were more than 2,500 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 between March and September 2020.
Disturbingly, AAPI women receive nearly double the number of threats.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, from March to December 2020, 126 incidents were reported against Asian Americans over 60. In New York City alone, 1 in 3 Asian seniors live in a limited English-speaking household, can’t defend themselves, and likely won’t report what happened.
But these are just numbers. What do hate crimes mean? It’s easy to get lost in the numbers, especially when we see a daily Covid death toll, we tend to become desensitized to the individual cases.
THE FOLLOWING SECTION INCLUDES EXAMPLES OF HATE CRIMES. PLEASE SKIP THIS IF YOU NEED IT.
An Asian woman wearing a face mask was assaulted and called “diseased” in a subway station in February 2020. In a video clip of the incident, a man appears to be kicking and punching the woman.
In March 2020, a Chinese-American lawyer, her young child, and her husband were verbally harassed and threatened by a woman blocks from their home. Hurling anti-Asian invective, the event was covered on social media. Despite reporting this to the NYPD, no arrest was ever made.
In March 2020, an Asian man was kicked from behind while walking on the street and fell to the ground, with the attacker adding, “F--king Chinese coronavirus” and telling the man to go back to his country. The man also told police that the attacker spat in his face.
Around the same time in March 2020, an Asian woman was hit by a stranger who screamed, “Where’s your corona mask, you Asian b---h!” in Manhattan.
In Queens, a man and his son were yelled at by a stranger who yelled, “Where’s your f---ing mask, you Chinese b---h?” The stranger followed the man and his son to a packed bus stop and then tried to hit the man over the head. The man was later charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime.
A writer for The New Yorker said she was taking out her trash in March 2020 when a man walking by began cursing at her for being Chinese.
A 30-year-old from Syracuse, NY, was verbally abused in a grocery store by a man who shouted, “It’s you people who brought the disease.” That same day, the victim experienced verbal abuse from two couples at Costco.
A 51-year-old Asian woman was attacked on an MTA bus by four female suspects who made anti-Asian statements and struck the victim on her head with an umbrella before fleeing.
A man harassed an Asian woman in Rego Park, Queens, with expletives. When the victim tried to take a picture of the perpetrator, he slapped the phone out of her hand.
In May, a 30-year-old Asian man was almost dragged out of his seat on the 4 Train of the NYC subway by a stranger who called the victim an “infected China boy.”
A man who spat on a female Asian passenger and screamed, “Asians caused the virus!” and “Go back to China!” in a Bronx subway on July 31 was arrested on August 7, 2020.
In October, a 40-year-old Asian man was choked and punched in the face just as he left his parked car near West 16th Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. The attacker yelled racial slurs at him.
In December, a 32-year-old Asian woman was confronted and punched in the face by three men and three women in the subway. Police reported that she was confronted over not wearing a mask, and anti-Asian comments were made during the attack.
Many cases are still not classified as hate crimes due to purportedly insufficient evidence of racial animosity. Or, like the Atlanta murders, because the culprit says it wasn't racially motivated.
What can we do to help?
Jennifer Chen wrote this article with essential ways we can help: Racist Attacks Against Asian Americans Are Still on The Rise During COVID-19. Plus, we can promote and donate to organizations like Stop AAPI hate, and educate ourselves on bystander intervention.
The bare minimum is to acknowledge that these things are happening, on our social media.
Dominique said so many things in this episode that I'll write a follow-up with further conclusions, but we had to lay some facts first. Check it out to know more about what her analysis was from a sociology perspective. With all this info, go to the episode again here.