#StopAsianHate is the bare minimum response to the Atlanta spa shootings.

Focusing only on blatant anti-Asian hate lets the forces that fuel white supremacist misogyny off the hook.

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CW: Sexual and police violence

It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe my anger and sadness over the Atlanta spa shootings, and my thoughts are admittedly scattered. Once again, we saw a white male shooter taken alive by law enforcement after he took brazenly killed multiple people. The eight victims were mostly women, and mostly of Asian descent — and most of them were also killed in their places of employment.

While the shooter has apparently denied a racial motivation — and this narrative has been amplified by mainstream media outlets and law enforcement who said the shooter “had a really bad day” last Tuesday — the killings cannot be seen separately from the well-documented rise in harassment and violence targeting individuals of Asian descent in this country since the start of the pandemic. Just this past week, a 75-year-old woman was attacked in San Francisco and similar incidents have been reported in recent months, particularly in Chinatown districts across the country.

The violence has sparked a movement under the hashtag #StopAsianHate. Brands and celebrities have rushed to put out statements of solidarity (one media company literally posted a yellow square on Instagram, an action they later apologized for). The White House put out a statement. And this weekend, rallies and vigils across the country were held in major cities. Killing Eve star Sandra Oh appeared at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday and led the crowd in a chant of “I am proud to be Asian / I belong here.”

These expressions of solidarity are genuinely moving, but #StopAsianHate simply isn’t enough. While these anti-Asian attacks have been increasing in frequently over the pandemic, the pandemic didn’t create this, and it shouldn’t have taken a mass shooting for this message to take off. As Jiayang Fan writes in The New Yorker, this violence is an extension of a long legacy in this country of Asian women in particular being “objectified and abhorred, fetishized and exoticized.” Fan continues:

From the Page Act of 1875, which effectively prohibited Chinese women from immigrating to the U.S. (under the pretense that they could only be prostitutes), to the depictions onscreen and in pop culture of the deviant dragon lady, Asian women have been hypersexualized and then demonized for their projected hypersexuality. 

Based on what has been publicly reported about the shootings, stopping the man who killed eight people last Tuesday from actively and consciously “hating” Asian people would not have saved any lives last week.

Despite law enforcement’s denial that the shootings were racially motivated, we cannot ignore the question of why this man felt entitled to take out his apparent frustration over his claims of having a sex addiction on the employees and customers of three Asian-owned spas mostly populated by women of Asian descent. We cannot ignore the question of why these lives were apparently viewed as less valuable and more disposable to him. We cannot ignore the systems, policies and culture norms that are at work in fueling the dehumanization of Asian lives.

Since the part of the pandemic, Asian Americans have faced a surge in violence and harassment, particularly in Chinatown districts around the country. (Photo: Kevin Vigerie/Unsplash)

As I was thinking about the tragedy in Atlanta, I remembered one of the first noteworthy news stories that broke in Batavia after we moved out here in 2016. In December of that year, a 35-year-old woman who was an employee of Gem Spa downtown was arrested and charged with prostitution for allegedly offering to a perform a sexual act on an undercover police officer. Seven months earlier, two other women were arrested under similar charges at Gem and another area spa, both of which have since closed their doors.

As a result of these arrests, these women all experienced the humiliation of having their names, addresses and mugshots published in newspapers and online. In the case of one of the women arrested in May 2016, the woman’s prostitution charge was never even prosecuted. Further, a lawsuit was filed last October alleging that an undercover officer masturbated in front of her after she refused to perform a sexual act on him. 

It is all too typical for news stories like these to run in local papers based entirely on law enforcement narratives that likely do not capture the full reality of a situation due to language barriers and under-resourced newsrooms. These stories ruin lives and perpetuate stereotypes that contribute to anti-Asian sentiments in our communities. And these are stories based entirely on misdemeanor charges — all for those precious page views, baby!

The need for more nuance and ethics in journalism about Asian lives is just one example of what we need to do beyond stopping Asian hate.

Let’s celebrate Asian excellence. Let’s make space for Asian joy. If you are an ally, educate yourself about the history of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination in this country. Consider signing up for a bystander intervention training to learn what you can do if you witness anti-Asian violence. Donate to groups that are providing critical support to Asian communities right now. Above all, let’s not wait until the next mass shooting to do something to address the hate facing our Asian friends and neighbors.

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This week has been a lot, so it’s time for another lil link-dump.

  • MTV News icon SuChin Pak spoke out on Instagram this week about her experience facing racism and misogyny during her time at the network. It’s a powerful and important reminder that racist “jokes” have power, and it’s something that anyone who’s ever been gaslit in a work environment (especially for issues related to their identity) will probably relate to.

A post shared by @suchinpak
  • Other celebrities embraced a more chaotic presence on social media last week. Björk emerged from her silence to post in celebration of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland (“we still got it !!!”) on Instagram. On Twitter, Dr. Phil (yes, that Dr. Phil) live-tweeted an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race with no added explanation or context whatsoever. And Ian Somerhalder posted a series of photos from the Cigars & Spirits cover shoot featuring his bourbon brand on Twitter (“Yes! We did it!”).

  • The New York Times just announced it is simply allowing chaos to reign and is abandoning its 77,000-member Facebook cooking group. The paper is looking for “10 to 20 volunteers” to take over moderation duties, and Nieman Lab is attempting to get to the bottom of what went down, and Erin Biba’s Twitter thread below was somehow one of my favorite things I read last week.

  • One of the positive developments from the pandemic has been the regular Zoom dance parties my friend Ruth organizes. Each party has a different theme to guide the song selections, and the most recent one was “House and Home.” This meant songs all about homes and houses, of course, and also things that can be found inside residences, and this party introduced me to this 1986 dance track from Gwen Guthrie (an artist who did backing vocals and wrote songs for legends including Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack). It’s been weeks now and I still haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

  • Denali, one of the recent queens to be sent packing on the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, is also a professional figure skater by the name of Cordero Zuckerman. I have ~thoughts~ on her elimination I won’t get too deeply into here, but I know how much the QTB readership loves outdoor figure skating videos (see also: Elladj Balde), so I thought I’d share the latest performance Denali (who also gets bonus points as a Chicago-based queen) shared to YouTube.