The horrifying incident that took place in Atlanta region of U.S. on Tuesday has left the community shaken. The horrendous crime that took place in quick succession arose concerns and questions regarding the safety of Asian Americans.
As Helen Kim Ho got to know that a White man with a self-pronounced sex addiction was charged with murder of eight people — including six Asian women — at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday, she thought of the stereotypes of Asian women that he must have visualized.
“We’re not really Americans, we’re perpetually foreigners, and that idea plays out with women as being oversexualized,” remarked Ho, a Korean American and a organizer of the advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta. “All of that had to have played out in this man’s own mind. In addition to the unspoken notion that Asian people are easy targets.”
Atlanta police mentioned that the suspect told them that his actions were not racially driven — even though the shooter besieged businesses known for employing Asians, and six victims were Asian women. The suspect mentioned he had a “sex addiction,” as per the police, and wanted to reduce temptation. The comment made many women feel as if their sexuality was somehow to blame.
The shooter’s intent appeared crystal clear to Asians living in Atlanta and across the nation who have had a long confront stereotyping, hateful harassment and violence period. They also feel that things have gotten even worse amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For Asian women, the incident felt particularly threatening. The moment Crystal Jin Kim heard about the shooting, she ensured of her mother and father, who have immigrated to the United States from Korea. In a text, she advised them “to be safe, to be careful, and to pray.”
She thought about postponing one of their upcoming doctor appointments. Se shared that she is worried about her mother who goes to work at a small business in the Atlanta area.
Kim’s words speak of the fear and pain experienced by Asian Americans in the country. She further said “Since I was a kid I’ve heard racial slurs yelled at me or my parents, or witnessed my parents being treated as if they were stupid because their English isn’t perfect, even though my mom’s English is really good. Those small moments really add up. I don’t think we’ve ever spoken up against those small moments. . . . It’s easier to try not to think about it, or to try to let it go. To try to bury the hurt.”
Asian American women say, the shootings are not surprising. David Palumbo-Liu, a Stanford professor and author of “Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier,” remarked that the instances started far ago, spreading well before the Vietnam War, of the fetishization of and lethal intent toward Asian women. He quoted the Broadway musical “Miss Saigon,” which critics have said romanticizes an imperialistic relationship and describes Asian women as compliant and self-sacrificing.
Palumbo-Li, in an interview said that the suspect “said it wasn’t racially motivated, but on the other hand, he’s going specifically to these spas where Asian women work precisely to serve the sexual fantasies of White males “so to disentangle them is really to do a disservice to the fact that these things are so linked together.”
The union Stop AAPI Hate has been recording anti-Asian attacks since the beginning of pandemic in last March and comment that there have been close to 3,800 hate-fueled attacks against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the U.S. — a number the group mentions is perhaps a fraction of the true number. About 3 in 10 Asian grown-ups mentioned that they’ve experienced jokes or slurs about their race or ethnicity during the pandemic period, according to Pew Research — the highest percent among all races.