Editorial: Georgia spa shootings reveal rising racism, hate crimes against Asian Americans

Robert Aaron Long was arrested March 16 after a deadly shooting spree in Georgia left the U.S. in shock. It began at Young’s Asian Massage, where he killed three women and one man. About an hour later, he killed four more women at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa.  

Authorities have charged Long with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, but Rodney Bryant, the acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department, said it was not yet clear whether the shooting spree would be classified as a hate crime. It’s clear these murders were racially motivated, and society must start to perceive them as such. 

The Shorthorn editorial board condemns this deadly act of gun violence and recognizes this was the culmination of discrimination such as verbal harassment, shunning or physical violence against the Asian community over the past year.  

Associating a virus with a specific population of people is a perfect example of discrimination, xenophobia and racism.

Discrimination against Asians is nothing new in America. The Page Act of 1875 effectively banned Chinese women from emigrating to the U.S., claiming they were prostitutes. And as recent as last year when the pandemic began, Asian women were one of the highest numbers of unemployed workers, according to the National Women’s Law Center.  

Even at UTA, Asian students have reported being stereotyped and told they couldn’t take a joke when they called out racist remarks, according to previous Shorthorn reporting.  

Former President Donald Trump propagated xenophobia with his harmful rhetoric, unapologetically referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu” last March and June, respectively. Kayleigh McEnany, his former White House press secretary, said his rhetoric did not insult Asian Americans but laid blame on the country of China.   

The number of implicit biases against Asian Americans steadily decreased from 2007 to 2020. However, since the pandemic began, the number went up drastically and offset more than three years of previous decline according to a 2020 study, published in Health Education & Behavior.  

Racial discrimination is not exclusive to Chinese Americans. Nearly 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported from March 19 last year to Feb. 28, according to Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate, a group formed in March of last year to track and respond to incidents of racially motivated hate following a spike in xenophobia toward the Asian community last March. 

Anti-Asian hate crimes in America’s largest cities spiked almost 150% in 2020, and 39% of Asian adults said racist and racially-motivated behaviors have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak began, according to previous Shorthorn reporting.  

People of Chinese descent are the largest group of people who report experiencing hate, followed by Koreans, Vietnamese and Filipinos. This is a series of attacks on Asians living in the U.S., who now live in fear in the country that is promoted as “the land of the free.”  

While the current number of reported hate crimes against the Asian community is already high, the number is still undercounted, according to the Poynter Institute. Language barriers, fears of repercussions for their immigration status or a victim’s mentality may prohibit Asians from reporting crimes against them.  

There are signs of racial discrimination with regards to Black people and other ethnic groups such as the Confederate flag, a noose or a swastika. But there is no obvious racist imagery to prove these attacks against the Asian community are racially motivated.  

It is difficult to prove if a person has a racial bias against Asians unless publicly spoken or written out, making it almost impossible to legally condemn these actions as an act of racism unless those people publicly admit to their wrongdoings. 

But people don’t confess to being racist unless they are exposed with clear evidence.

This is why Long relies on eliminating his “temptation” as an excuse for his nauseating behavior. The police have said it is too early to call this a hate crime, despite six of the eight people killed being of Asian descent. 

Long’s testimony about “temptation”  is misogynistic and fetishizes Asian women. Of the hate incidents reported by Stop AAPI Hate, 68% of them happened to women. Asian women are far too often sexualized and painted as submissive.  

The Shorthorn editorial board encourages everybody to check in with and offer emotional support to their Asian friends and family.  People can participate with nonprofits or use social media platforms to spread awareness of charities or organizations that report racially-charged crimes.

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Katecey Harrell; Editor-in-Chief Cecilia Lenzen; associate news editor Spencer Brewer; Samantha Knowles, life and entertainment editor; sports editor Adrian Rodriguez; news reporter Thevnin Rumende; and copy editor Jill Bold. Brewer and Rumende were not present for this editorial decision, and news editor David Silva Ramirez and sports reporter Andrew Tineo filled in.


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