Arts & Entertainment Editor
Warning: The articles and videos that are linked in this piece show the violence against Asian-Americans. Please watch and read with caution.
Yet another terrible hate crime against Asian-Americans was committed on March 16, and I can’t tell you how exhausting this has become.
If you have any way of consuming news, I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent Asian hate crimes that have been on the rise. However, if your first thought is, “why is this just happening now?” I’m afraid to tell you: this has been going on since the beginning of the pandemic. Politicians and major news sources have been downplaying the severity of these crimes for far too long now. What they fail to realize is that this is personal; it’s personal to me and every person of the Asian-American community. Our voices shouldn’t, and can’t, be shut out any longer.
Asians, specifically Chinese people, had blame placed on them for this whole pandemic. They were scapegoated as a way for then-President Donald Trump to justify the fact that the U.S. was unprepared to handle a pandemic. We are not the reason our government is incompetent. University of Southern California Professor of Sociology Andrew Lakoff said, in a USC Dornslife article, “it’s been a challenge ever since then [the swine flu] to get political authorities, and even some public health authorities, to take pandemic preparedness seriously. It’s asking people to put resources into addressing a potential threat whose probability is impossible to calculate, so attention to it has waxed and waned.”
In a CNN article written by Holly Yan, Natasha Chen, and Dushyant Naresh, they reported on multiple instances of Asian-American hate by the end of February 2020. Tanny Jiraprapasuke, a Thai-American woman, was singled out on an L.A. subway and berated for 10 minutes. She recorded the man as he ranted to another passenger, “every disease has ever come from China, homie. Everything comes from China because they’re f—ing disgusting.”
On Feb. 2, 2020, a woman was assaulted in New York. She was attacked for simply wearing a mask, and one witness said that they heard the man call her a “diseased b—h.” In Indiana, two people of Hmong descent were harassed for trying to check into a hotel. The employee asked if the two were from China; if they were, then they would need to be quarantined. However, at this time, that was not true. It was only U.S. citizens who recently came back from China’s Hubei province that needed to be quarantined.
All of these had happened by February 2020, not even a month after the virus was found by the World Health Organization.
A new study, based on police department statistics in major U.S. cities, reported that there was nearly a 150 percent surge in Asian-American hate crimes in 2020. That report showed that, from March 19, 2020, to December 31, 2020, 69 percent of incidents that targeted AAPI individuals happened in California. On Jan. 28 of this year, there was security footage of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee being shoved to the ground in San Francisco (please watch the video with caution). Two days later, he died. In February of this year, a 64-year-old Vietnamese grandmother was assaulted and robbed in San Jose. Oakland Police had to put out a warning, also in February, about increased crime rates in Chinatown. A 91-year-old man was pushed to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown (there is a video with the article, please watch with caution).
On March 16, 2021, one man’s three shootings at Atlanta spas left eight people, six of them Asian women, dead. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said that the motivation was the shooter wanting to eliminate a “sex addiction,” and it wasn’t racially-motivated, with many news sources circulating the same narrative. Atlanta Police Chief Jay Baker said, “he was [kind of] at the end of his rope. It was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”
A bad day isn’t a justification for a murder spree. It isn’t a reason to take out your upsets on eight women. This was white supremacy at its finest. The privilege of being able to feel bad, act on violent tendencies, and most likely get off free, or with very little charges, is white privilege. Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and mass murderer, is responsible for the 2015 massacre of nine Black church members in South Carolina. While he was convicted, he still got to keep his life and his dignity — something that their victims and people of color (at the hands of police) do not get the luxury to do.
To the Atlanta police who keep perpetuating that the shootings were not racially-motivated, what you don’t understand is that, even if (and that’s a very heavy if) the shootings were not racially-motivated, it’s still going to strike fear and paranoia into the Asian-American community. Furthermore, the shooter said that he had wanted to eliminate locations he saw as temptations for his sex addiction. The shooter saw Asian women at Asian spas as “temptations” that must be “eliminated.” His words, not mine.
It’s been circulating online that the women may have been sex workers. While it hasn’t been confirmed, this just further builds onto the sexualization and fetishization of Asian women. If the women weren’t sex workers, then the shooter was going off of the stereotype of Asian sex workers at a massage parlor. If they were sex workers, this only further stigmatizes sex workers as being “worthy” of abuse and violence. This was a hate crime, no matter how mainstream media puts it. The fetishization and sexualization of Asian women is something that is often overlooked.
In an NPR article, it was found that white men are more attracted to Asian women on dating apps. This harmful fetishization of Asian women has been dubbed “yellow fever.” So, these shootings were an act of racism and bigotry; they were racially-motivated.
As I said at the beginning, I cannot begin to explain how tiring it is to hear the news of these Asian hate crimes. I cannot explain the fear and the dread I feel for myself and for my family. My uncle recently went back to work, and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that he could potentially be a target for an attack just because he’s Asian. My mom goes out and runs errands for my household often; she, too, is a potential target. My cousins, my brother, myself — we could all at some point be a target, and that’s terrifying to think about. Please reach out to your Asian friends; some of us may need to rant or may just need the company. There are resources out there for you to educate yourself, to get involved, and to get support.
To the Whittier College administration, I saw the email you sent last February, and I’d like to say that the sentiment came too late. You did the same thing with the belated statements and actions in the past for Black students. Why did it take the summer movement of BLM to say something? To do something? These statements and actions feel half-empty because they came so late. It should have been something that came way before it was “newsworthy.”
We’ve been suffering for the past year against these hate crimes and just because the news becomes mainstream does not mean it hasn’t been happening. There has been coverage of these crimes dating to the beginning of the pandemic; you have no excuse. You can stand with us, but that’s only part of the battle. You can condemn the violence, but that’s still only part of the battle. What are you going to do to make the college a safe place for when we go back in the Fall? There was a recent incident in a Political Science class where someone called COVID-19 the ‘Wuhan Virus.’ The professor didn’t address it, and it was the students who had to push back. What are you doing in terms of education and diversity? Even then, it took over 24 hours to release a statement about the March 16 shootings. You cannot advocate for diversity and inclusion just to fall short on that promise. We are tired.
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus