A year of escalating violent racist attacks against Asian Americans took its deadliest turn on Tuesday when a white gunman murdered eight in a shooting spree in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian women. The South Korean Foreign Ministry has confirmed that 4 were of Korean descent.
Despite the link between victims’ ethnic backgrounds, AP reports that gunman Robert Aaron Long told police the attack was not racially motivated. He claimed to have a “sex addiction,” and authorities said he apparently lashed out at what he saw as sources of temptation.
But those statements spurred outrage and widespread skepticism given the locations and that most of the victims were women of Asian descent. Captain Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said the perpetrator saw the spas as “a temptation that he wanted to eliminate.”
The massacre follows a wave of recent incidences across the US, several of which were captured in videos that went viral. Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has been documenting incidents of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander discrimination, has found that 3,800 attacks have been perpetrated in the US since March 2020.
But it would be a mistake to think that anti-Asian attacks are an American phenomenon.
Since the start of COVID-19, Asian people have disproportionately been the target of cruel verbal and physical attacks that have exponentially increased. According to a report released on March 2nd, more than a third of Chinese-Australians reported facing discrimination over the last year. Two-thirds of respondents believe the pandemic was a contributing factor and 52 per cent cited diplomatic tensions.
Of more than 1,000 Chinese-Australians surveyed, 18 per cent reported being physically threatened or attacked because of their ethnic background in the 12 months to December.
Another survey launched by the Asian Australian Alliance last April found that 380 racially-fuelled attacks had occurred over the course of two months to June. The majority of the victims were women—65 per cent—while 60 per cent constituted verbal or physical harassment.
Many Chinese-Australians have expressed concern over higher levels of racism since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Gold Coast surgeon Rhea Liang tweeted that a patient had made a joke about not shaking her hand for fear of catching the virus. “I have not left Australia. This is not sensible health precautions, this is #racism,” Dr Liang tweeted.
In February last year, over 64,000 people signed a petition to have two mainstream Australian newspapers apologise for the headlines “China virus pandamonium” and “China kids stay home”; both of which led stories about how Australian private schools want their students who have visited China recently to first be cleared by a doctor before returning to class.
If that’s not racism, we don’t know what is.
But again, the issue spreads way further than America and Australia. In Singapore, over 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the government to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country. In the Japanese town of Hakone, a shop prompted an apology from tourism authorities after posting a sign banning Chinese people from entering. And in France, the newspaper, Le Courier Picard, used headlines “Alerte jaune” (Yellow alert) and “Le péril jaune?” (Yellow peril?), accompanied by a picture of a Chinese woman wearing a mask. This prompted many French Asians to respond on social media with #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I’m not a virus).
Julie Park, Hyun-jeong Park Grant, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, Xiaojie Yan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44 are six of the eight victims identified from the Atlanta shootings.
They need to be the last.