Why There Was a Sinophobic Shooting in Atlanta

Robert Aaron Long killed eight people, six of which were Asian women. He went out of his way to not only end their lives early, but ruin their families, and give us, the Asian community, another reason why we must live our lives in fear, to not feel safe in our own neighbourhood, to feel like an outsider, and to feel we can’t speak up about anything that happens to us. I am so tired of people not acknowledging the gravity of the situation because it impacts us as a community so negatively and, for some, can even scar them for life. There is a reason these things keep happening – the history that no one is taught, that is not acknowledged, and isn’t accepted. You are the reason why we feel we can’t speak up, and Long is one of many examples as to why.

 

What Long did was a hate crime. Although there is proof of that, his actions were not classed as one and so he was not held accountable for this massacre. And I can guarantee that if this was the other way round – if a Chinese person was the one who pulled the trigger – there would be no holding back on the sentence. Long was excused because he is white. Some headlines referred to him as a ‘kid’, but as much as I hate to admit it, you are not a kid at 21 years old. You are responsible for your thinking and your actions, he knew what he was doing. The media downplayed his actions, and so he was exempt from hate crime charges because he is white. He benefits from white privilege, and his actions were softened because of his ‘superior’ race. 

 

‘He understood the gravity of it. He was pretty much fed up and at the end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.’

 

During interviews, Captain Baker concluded that when asking Long about his intentions, race ‘did not appear to be the motive’. Since when did the suspect get to decide whether his intentions were racist? People don’t get to decide whether they are racist. Other people get to, depending on their actions. I am mentally exhausted having to even explain why things are wrong, let alone racist, where people claim to not be even though their actions tell me otherwise. But this will not stop me from explaining why there are so many things wrong – not just with the world – but with this incident, starting with why Long did it in the first place. Long is an exceptional example of the ignorant expressions of racism in America, deeply rooted in its history.

 

The Page Act of 1875 was put in place in America to basically ban the immigration of Chinese women specifically, where they were collectively thought of as sex workers or prostitutes. This feeds into Yellow Peril, the thought that Asian immigrants would overtake and destroy American society and values. This is nothing new. Asian women throughout history have been constantly fetishized and hypersexualised, where people view them as ‘submissive’ and ‘exotic’. They are stereotyped to be ‘sexual deviants’, which isn’t helped by western media, particularly in film which exoticizes Asian women, degrading them only as sexual objects rather than the incredible individuals they are. They are then gaslighted, which helps the functionality of white supremacy thanks to the Model Minority Myth. You see Asian American women as quiet, obedient, smart objects with class privilege and because of that there can’t be racism there. They are told they should take it as a compliment, should find this flattering and feel lucky to be a preference. Fetishization is not the same as a ‘preference’, because if you expect all Asian women to be the same just to fulfil these fantasies, then that is not a ‘preference’. Fetishization is not seen as any of these things, but it is uncomfortable, morally degrading, and dehumanising. You see and treat these women as objects for your own fantasy. 

 

Long’s actions should be classed as a hate crime, but his actions were excused, not only because he is white but because he was believed to have a sex addiction. He was thought to have seen the spas as a ‘temptation’ that he wanted to eliminate. He saw these Asian women as evil seductive bodies that needed to be removed from society, a belief stemming from 1875 to excuse the segregation of Chinese people. The word ‘temptation’ shifts the blame onto the victims, making them ‘responsible’ for his triggering sexual thoughts which ultimately led him to murder and not be held accountable.

 

I cannot fathom how ridiculous this entire incident is to me. How one has so obviously committed a hate crime, but it is not acknowledged as one. How he can just be ‘having a bad day’ and be excused for killing people. How he was allowed to give in to his ‘temptation’ and murder people. I cannot express how sad it makes me that Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Hyun Jung Grant, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, and Xiaojie Tan all still had lives to live, but no longer can because of Long. How the victims do not even get the justice they deserve for what he did, and I cannot imagine how their families are feeling at this time. I am angry that this is the world we live in, where people still have so much hate within themselves that they could even consider doing something like this just because of someone’s race. 

 

One of the biggest problems in tackling hate crimes is that too many incidents are never recorded. But can you honestly blame us for not wanting to speak up? Firstly, when you are racially harassed, attacked, and discriminated against, that shit is embarrassing. You feel utterly dehumanised and when it is happening, sometimes you are in such a state of shock that no words can be expressed. I have experienced many incidents which can definitely be classed as a hate crime, but have I ever reported any? Not once. Sometimes I don’t even realise it is a hate crime until after, but almost 90% of the time, it is because I honestly do not see the point in even trying. With the system so corrupt, with the views so narrow-minded, and with what I have seen in the past, what is going to be done to help people like me? Long killed people who look like me, my mum, my aunties, and my grandmothers and didn’t get fault. You expect us to say something, but how can we when the system has constantly failed us? Whilst I’m glad some people are finally speaking up, I am so overwhelmed by the rise in Asian hate crimes and the constant coverage that I’m conflicted in how I feel about it, which sometimes turns my good days into bad ones. But no matter much of a ‘bad day’ I have, you will never see me use that as an excuse to kill anyone and get away with it.