By Reese Burns, assistant editor
On March 16, 2021, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, a white man, walked into Cherokee County’s Young’s Asian Massage and two Atlanta businesses, Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa, and opened fire, killing eight people. Six of the women killed were of Asian descent. Many believe Long was motivated by racial hate and committed an act of domestic terror, but the police still list his motive as “unknown.”
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is half-Asian herself, spoke out following this violence saying, “I do want to say to our Asian American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people.”
This attack has left the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in fear, and as Adriana Nahjia, the niece of one of the men who was killed, puts it, “we never know when we are at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Although Long has been arrested and has admitted to murdering predominantly Asian American women, Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office stated that his “issue” is not that he’s racist but that he has a sex addiction. “He does have an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker said.
While the shooting is said to possibly have been motivated by Long’s alleged sex addiction, race undoubtedly plays a role. Throughout American history, Asian Americans and the violence against them has been linked to the stigma surrounding Asian sex workers leading them to be sexualized, objectified, and dehumanized. Therefore, even if the Atlanta shootings are said to be motivated only by a sex addiction, history shows the connection between the Asian community and sexualization.
Furthermore, a video was released where Captain Baker states that the shooter, Robert Long, just had “a really bad day”. This comment, practically defending the shooter and providing an excuse for the eight murders he committed, received backlash all over the media. Opponents argue that in addition to the claim that Long had a “bad day” being completely insensitive to the victims and their families, it also goes to further accentuate white privilege in the United States.
Long, a white man, was arrested without excessive force and was defended by the Captain of the Atlanta Police Force because he has a “sex addiction” which caused him to have “a really bad day” and ultimately murder eight innocent people, which many feels exhibits the large differences in the treatment of criminals based on their races.
Ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic when former President Donald Trump referred to Covid-19 as “the Chinese Virus,” anti-Asian hate crimes have risen by an astounding 150%. However, this number could realistically be a lot higher if all hate crimes were reported and if the use of vicious, derogatory terms were considered acts of hate. 2,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported since the pandemic started, women being 2.5 times more likely to be attacked than men.
Unfortunately, hateful actions directed towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are not necessarily a new occurrence. The stigma surrounding this community has been one in which they are considered a “privileged minority” which speaks to the ignorance of the economic and ethnic diversity existing within the community. Anne A. Cheng, a comparative race scholar and professor at Princeton University, argues that “the false model minority myth offers an excuse for not paying attention to Asian Americans. It’s one of the great ironies of American racial justice, that you only get attention when you are really being abused.”