Last week, a young man walked into three Atlanta-area spas and opened fire. His rampage left 8 people dead, 6 of whom were Asian women. In the aftermath of this shooting, a police spokesperson stated that the shootings were not racially motivated, and instead was due to the shooter’s sex addiction, and his desire to eliminate the source of that addiction.
It is important to recognize that no matter what the shooter may have said about his rationale, this shooting was a hate crime. Six out of the eight victims were Asian women, and all of the businesses targeted were Asian-owned. Perhaps more importantly, these attacks were rooted in centuries of racism against Asian Americans — particularly Asian women. Asian women, both in the United States and abroad, have long been dehumanized and hyper-sexualized — particularly those in the service industry. A number of Asian American women have written extensively on this subject, and we encourage you to read these pieces:
A Sociologist’s View on the Hyper-Sexualization of Asian Women in American Society
The U.S. Military’s Long History of Anti-Asian Dehumanization
Asian Women Are Hypersexualized, So Don’t Tell Me The Killings In Atlanta Aren’t About Race
The shooter’s claim of needing to “eliminate” his sex addiction by killing these women also reveals another issue: how frequently women are held responsible, often violently, for men’s feelings. The notion that women are to blame for how men feel can be found throughout our society. Common examples are dress codes and calls for women to dress modestly. This is often based on the idea that because men and boys cannot control themselves, women and girls must dress accordingly. This puts the burden of men’s or boys’ emotions and actions onto women or girls, instead of holding them responsible for their behavior. It is also a mindset that is often used to blame victims — by asking what a victim was wearing, or even questioning what a woman might have done to anger the person who abused her.
We must be clear: the Atlanta shooter is the only person responsible for his actions. He made a choice to buy a gun and then to drive to three separate businesses, where he murdered eight people in cold blood. Justice for these victims – and for so many others who have died as a result of racism and misogyny – demands that we hold perpetrators responsible for their actions and that we address the deep-seated cultural beliefs that perpetuate this kind of violence.
Soon Chung Park
Hyun Jung Grant
Yong Ae Yue
Delaina Ashley Yaun
Paul Andree Michels
It is unclear whether the shooter will be charged as a hate crime. Under Georgia’s newly enacted hate crime law, a person accused of a hate crime may face an additional penalty if prosecutors can prove that the crime was motivated by a victim’s age, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, or mental or physical disability. In this case, it is seems clear that the shooting was motivated by the victims’ race and gender — and that the shooter should face enhanced penalties as a result.
We stand in solidarity with the Asian American community, and against racism in all of its forms. As always, if you need help, we are here for you. Contact us anytime at 1-888-832-2272 to speak to a trained crisis counselor.