Long and ugly history. From the archives–1886 racist anti-Chinese cartoon showing a fictitious product “washee-washee” to wash out “dirty” Chinese. Images: Wikimedia Commons.
The death of all those killed in Atlanta on March 17 is yet another attack in the long history of White supremacy and anti-Asian violence that has plagued this country.
This was a targeted killing of six Asian women, ages 44 to 74, a hate crime of both White and male supremacy, and should be denounced as such. There is a long history of fetishizing Asian women for their sexuality. Colonial “Orientalism” stereotyped women from Asian as mysterious and possessing secrets that western men “can’t resist and have to possess.”
When the alleged perpetrator, Robert Long, claimed that he had to target these women for his own “sex addiction” he was just the latest white man to live out this racist stereotyping and fetishizing. There has also been an element of victim shaming of those who were killed, implying that because they worked in perfectly legal and legitimate massage parlors, somehow they were partly to blame.
In the follow-up to the shooting, Captain Jay Baker, the spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, said of the suspect: “It was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” This interpretation of events is another way of justifying the killings. Captain Baker himself has posted anti-Asian statements and advertisements on his Facebook account. The posting of April 2020 of an image from a T-shirt read: “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”
Is this going to be another case like the June 19, 1982 beating to death of Vincent Chin by two white men in Detroit? The men were fined $3,000 and never spent a day in jail. This was due to a racist judge and policing. Chin, a Chinese, was beaten to death with a baseball bat by the white men.
In the Atlanta case, the shooter specifically targeted only massage parlors where Asian women worked. No parlors where people of any other race worked. What clearer evidence could there be that this was a racist hate crime? Targeting people because of their gender—which the killer did— is also a hate crime.
This racism has only been exacerbated in the last year by the Trump administration’s targeting of China for the Covid-19 pandemic calling it the “Chinese virus,” or “Wuhan virus.” But it’s not just Donald Trump. Here are some elected past quotes:
Hillary Clinton famously said, “I don’t want my grandchildren to live in a world dominated by the Chinese.”
In 2019, Kiron Skinner, the State Department’s director of policy planning, said about China: “When we think about the Soviet Union in that competition [the Cold War], in a way, it was a fight within the Western family…This is a fight with a really different civilization, and a different ideology, and the United States hasn’t had that before.” The racist statement from a senior U.S. official continued, “”In China we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn’t expect a couple of decades ago. And I think it’s also striking that it’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian,” “In China we have an economic competitor, we have an ideological competitor, one that really does seek a kind of global reach that many of us didn’t expect a couple of decades ago. And I think it’s also striking that it’s the first time that we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian…”
Even more objective American experts have noted this racism. In March of this year, Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, said that “…when I see and hear Western political leaders vilifying China in the way that they do, I think that there is a dimension of Sinophobia, even racism, against the Chinese.”
The Biden administration is doubling down on a new Cold War against China, maintaining the Trump sanctions, increasing our military build up and pressure surrounding China, and continuing the demonization of China. When you demonize a country, a religion, or any group abroad, identified communities at home take the heat. People should remember what happened to Muslims after 9/11, Japanese Americans during World War II 2—they were imprisoned in internment camps—and the Chinese who were beaten, killed, and driven out of towns across the American West during the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barring all immigration from China.
America is infected with racism, sexism, and violence and home, and we practice it in our foreign policy abroad. Racism and misogyny against foreign nations abroad shows in our bombings and invasions of one nation after the other. Viet Nam, Nicaragua, Iraq, Haiti, Syria, Libya, and so many others. When did any of those nations ever threaten or attack us?
Now we are running carrier battle ships off China’s coast. Are they running carriers off our coast? Who is the real aggressor?
We are sanctioning China in the name of “human rights” in Hong Kong and Xinjiang; but China is not sanctioning America for attacking Chinese at home, or shooting down Blacks in the streets of America, or pushing Native Americans into small, poor reservations. What about the millions of people killed, wounded, and displaced in America’s foreign wars? Who is the aggressor?
Racism, misogyny, violence. They all go together, and they are all wrong. When we demonize nations abroad we create victims at home.
Americans of conscience must stand together, oppose these evils, and build a better society and future together. Only then can we all truly be free.
Michael Wong is the Vice President of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 69, San Francisco, and a retired social worker with a Master of Social Work degree. He is published in the anthologies, “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace,” edited by Maxine Hong Kingston, and “Waging Peace in Vietnam,” edited by Ron Craver, David Cortright, and Barbara Doherty. He also appeared in the documentary “Sir! No Sir!” about the GI resistance to the Vietnam War.