After eight people – including six women of Asian origin – were killed in three spas in Atlanta on Tuesday, police reiterated a surprising claim: According to the suspect, the attacks were not “racially motivated,” they said.
Instead, they found that the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Robert Long, had “some problems, possibly sexual addiction,” and apparently wrote off the role of race as a whole. (Later that day, it emerged that one of the officers who made the testimony, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, posted on Facebook about a t-shirt advocating a conspiracy theory for the coronavirus imported from China “.)
On the one hand, the police seemed to be trying to clear things up: with incidents against Asia increasing over the past year when people scapegoated Asian Americans for the coronavirus pandemic, officials likely wanted to make it clear that this attack was triggered by something different. However, what she said obscured how much racism and misogyny appeared to be linked to the shootings, which Long described as a way to reduce the “temptation” he faced in these spas.
This perception alone is based on long-standing tropes about these businesses and about Asian American women who were exoticized and fetishized as sexual partners as early as the 19th century. In other words, the suspect’s choice of the victim and the rationale he gave are telling in and of themselves: he can explicitly say that race was not a factor, but his actions and reasoning clearly suggest a very different interpretation down.
It’s about race because he’s hypersexualized, devalued, dehumanized, and targeted Asian women, not white women. The media makes too many excuses for white supremacy and misogyny. https://t.co/v8Qy5q9LRp
– Olivia Chan (@gcolivia_) March 17, 2021
At this point, officials have not released any further information about the victims: Vox’s Rachel Ramirez reported that Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng and four other women of Korean descent have yet to be identified. Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz was also injured but did not sustain life threatening wounds. It is not yet known if the women worked at these spas and what relationship, if any, they had with Sagittarius.
These attacks reflect a terrifying dynamic observed in the overall anti-Asian incident data. It found that women were twice as likely to report such attacks and harassment as men, and that the elderly and children accounted for almost 20 percent of the reports. These data seem to suggest that attackers across the board have been looking for those they find more vulnerable, a perception inextricably linked to gender and race.
Attacks against Asian Americans cannot be segregated by race or gender
In Tuesday’s shootings, the attacks were aimed at people whom the suspect allegedly saw as “temptation” for simply being present at those spas. According to the police, Long wanted to remove this temptation from his life by using force.
This impression, both of these facilities as a place of “temptation” and of the people who were there, comes from entrenched tropics through spas and Asian American women framed as hypersexualized beings.
Such stereotypes about Asian American women emerged in the 19th century and have since been reinforced over and over again during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, in the treatment of Asian women by American soldiers, and in popular culture depictions such as the geisha in Madame Butterfly. Over time, Asian American women have been painted as submissive, docile, and the focus of objectification and colonization rather than people who deserve real understanding and commitment. As Patricia Park writes for Bitch Media:
The perception of sexualized Asian women was shaped by a long tradition of Western male writing and controlling this perception, so that the women had no freedom of choice and no control over their own representation. Asian women in the media were few and far between; The few who did exist often had no choice but to take on the archetypal roles of Asian women.
The problem with the stereotype is that it dehumanizes Asian American women and reduces them solely to sexual objects. This dehumanization, in turn, continues and tolerates violence against these groups.
This dynamic, coupled with the proliferation of the “model minority myth,” which seeks to drive a wedge between minority groups and treats the Asian-American experience as extraordinary and homogeneous, makes the pain and violence that Asian American women endure invisible.
“Dehumanization creates a climate that makes violence excusable,” says Morgan Dewey, development coordinator for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Forty-one to 61 percent of Asian women report having experienced physical and / or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. This is significantly higher than for any other ethnic group. “
The conversation about Tuesday’s shooting bears some similarities to the conversation about violence against Asian American elders. Although recent attacks on seniors who have been knocked down or robbed may not have been linked to the coronavirus, the decision to target them could still be a racist one.
“When an Asian person, elderly or otherwise, is attacked for being seen as” simple or lucrative targets, “the” racist animus “in and of itself is not excluded,” the Asian-American Justice and Innovation Laboratory previously wrote on Instagram. “Without a doubt one can be seen as an ‘easy or lucrative target’ precisely because they are being racialized as an Asian person.”
Asian Americans are often viewed as simple signs of crimes like robbery, for example because they are less likely to report such incidents and because some members of the community are not fluent in English. Some of the recent attacks have also centered on Chinatowns across the country, including many immigrants who are likely to have lower incomes and be less visible. In other words, they are specifically profiled and attacked because of their ethnicity and vulnerability.
When it comes to the Atlanta shootings, the suspect’s allegations about his actions ultimately reveal how closely they are related to race and gender, issues that cannot be separated from these crimes, and efforts to understand the motivations behind them .
Law enforcement indicating that the suspect in the Atlanta shootings was motivated in part by his sex addiction does not exempt us from talking about race, anti-Asian violence, and the fetishization of Asian American women.
– Eva McKend (@evamckend) March 17, 2021