WCSAP Responds Violence Targeted at Asian American Women and Communities

In the Atlanta area yesterday, a 21-year-old white man killed eight people, including six Asian American women. The shootings took place at three massage parlors; the shooter has said that he carried out these attacks not because of racism, but because he has a sex addiction. 

It is unclear and unimportant whether or not people can have sexual encounters at those businesses. There may never be a clear way to “prove” that racism was at the heart of these attacks. The assumption that the existence of racism or the presence of sex work need to be proved is in and of itself is problematic. His assertions are preposterous in connection to carrying out these mass murders.

The shootings occurred at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia,” Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen said, the first Vietnamese American to serve in the Georgia House and a frequent advocate for women and communities of color. 

Hate crimes against Asian-Americans, particularly elders, has spiked in the last year, fueled by rhetoric that blames them for the spread of Covid-19. There have been 3,800 incidents reported over the course of a year. 

Over the past several months, the WCSAP team has been studying So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and this week we have been reading the chapter, "What is the model minority myth?" Oluo states:

“...The model minority myth is not a myth designed to benefit Asian Americans, it was designed to benefit White Supremacy through the exploitation of Asian American labor, the neglect of poor and disenfranchised Asian Americans, the exotification of Asian American culture, the exclusion of Asian Americans from systems of power, the sexual exploitation of Asian American women, and the comparison of the model minority status of Asian Americans to other racial minorities in order to delegitimize the claim of oppression and the struggles of black and Hispanic Americans.”

Nothing could be more apropos for us this week.

This violence is not the result of mental health issues or a lone wolf. Those are racist tropes that ignore that the roots lie in toxic masculinity, white supremacy, and patriarchal oppression that allows rape and domestic violence to persist. 

This violence is a result of our U.S. history of white nationalism and xenophobia. Here in Washington State, we hold the memories of internment camps at the Puyallup Fairgrounds and on Bainbridge Island. 

This violence in Atlanta is spurred by the same dehumanizing oppressive forces harming and killing Black folks, creating a culture of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, and separating immigrant children from their families. It is also connected to a culture of violence against women as inevitable, and to the dehumanization of sex workers in our society. We cannot end rape without ending all oppression. It is always connected. 

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, can provide resources for reporting a hate incident, things you can do if you are experiencing hate, or ways you can intervene if you witness hate incidents.