Making American Hate again?

Mass murder at the intersection of gender and race

As the coronavirus rapidly spreads across the world, so do racism, hate crimes, and xenophobia. It is time to put a full stop to the perpetuation of Asian violence because now we are facing a pandemic of racism and hate.

When former US President Donald Trump crossed out ‘corona’ and replaced it with ‘Chinese’ in his notes back in 2020, critics knew it would add fuel to the fire of racism, hate, and bigotry. Since then, Trump’s deliberate and ignorant remarks have led to an increase in racial segregation and hate crimes against the already marginalized Asian-American community amid the ongoing health crises.

The tipping point finally came in the form of a deadly mass shooting in the metropolitan area of Atlanta on 16 March 2021. The shooting occurred at three different massage parlours where eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women. Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white male, was captured as a suspect and is now charged with aggravated assault and eight counts of murder. This brazen shooting and mass murder have stirred terror and outrage within the Asian American community.

Nationwide protests and rallies in support of Asian Americans are held to #stopasianhate and to end racism against all the marginalized minority groups in America. The motive behind this atrocity has not been confirmed as a hate crime yet, but the fear and terror among the Asian people is fathomable. An FBI report has confirmed 7314 cases of hate crimes in 2019 (highest recorded after 2008.) From insults to murder, the hate against the Asian community is on the rise which according to some critics can be connected to the rhetoric blaming of Asian people, especially the Chinese, for the covid-19 outbreak.

However, Asian people have long been the target of hate and bigotry in the USA. This hostile environment is nothing new and is adding fuel to the existing racist and hegemonic ideas.

It’s been more than 160 years since people of Asian descent came to the USA during the late 19th century in the era of the Industrial Revolution. There was a high demand for low-wage jobs like railroad construction and mining which the immigrants from China started to fill. However, chants of ‘Asians immigrants stealing White Jobs’ started reverberating across the USA. Soon, the Californian Court in People v. Hall enforced racism against Asian-Americans by ruling that no person of Asian Descent can file a case against Whites. This reinforced anti-Asian violence and discrimination.

The hopes of achieving the American dream and equal opportunities for every person, irrespective of race, gender or class, keep getting dashed in the wake of increasing hate crimes. The slogans and chants of love trumping hate seem like a utopian concept in the world where a so-called God-fearing White Christian male is presented as a fallen hero who had a really bad day and went on a shooting spree because that is what we all do while experiencing bad days, right?

After these economic woes came the Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 where Congress prodigiously banned Chinese immigration for 20 years and then extended it for 10 more years. Not so surprisingly, the ban remained for more than 60 years, ultimately getting repealed in 1943. The San Francisco Plague outbreak was like a prelude to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. During the former outbreak, the Asian people were blamed for it because the first victim in the stateside was a Chinese. However, it is said that the plague outbreak began with an Australian ship, but the Americans mistreated the people living in Chinatowns, caused property destruction, and sealed their homes forcibly.

The racism and hate against Asian-Americans became more prominent in the USA when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and with the advent of World War II. The already settled immigrants and Japanese Americans were forcefully sent to internment camps by the US government over suspicions and qualms that they might help or aid the enemy. The conditions in camps were life-threatening: extreme cold in winter and raging hot in summer. No spies or moles were found, and only the bigotry, prejudice, and racism of the USAزژ became painfully transparent.

Considering the legacy of racism handed to Americans, it comes as no surprise when a White officer from Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department named Jay Baker stated the motive of Long for killing 8 people as having ‘a really bad day’. The sheer ignorance and absurdity of the statement have gathered widespread criticism from all over the world. The Captain is also accused of downplaying the horrendous actions of the White suspect Long who according to Baker has claimed to have a ‘sex addiction’ and thus, it was ‘a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate’.

Calling the Asian women a ‘temptation’ has further highlighted the sad pattern of Asian women as being doubly oppressed, racially and sexually. According to STOP AAPI HATE, since March 2020, 3800 incidents of anti-Asian hate have been reported in which 68 percent of the victims are women. There is also a deep-rooted history of stereotyping Asian women even in pop culture as exotic objects of desire or as hypersexualized. This has led to fetishization and violence against them. Considering that six of the eight people killed in the brutal shooting in Atlanta were Asian-American women, it clearly illustrates how gender and race intersect here.

The hopes of achieving the American dream and equal opportunities for every person, irrespective of race, gender or class, keep getting dashed in the wake of increasing hate crimes. The slogans and chants of love trumping hate seem like a utopian concept in the world where a so-called God-fearing White Christian male is presented as a fallen hero who had a really bad day and went on a shooting spree because that is what we all do while experiencing bad days, right?

Javaria Nisar
Javaria Nisar
The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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