This week, eight people were killed in a massage parlour shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. Six of them were Asian women. In the wake of a rise in hate crimes against Asian communities worldwide, Celine Dam writes about how Asian New Zealanders are feeling.
The shooter claims that he was not racially motivated, and that his attack was to eliminate the temptation of massage parlours because he had a sex addiction.
But your murders speak louder than your words. Targeting three Asian-owned businesses and murdering defenceless workers screams nothing but racist.
A sex addiction is no excuse to take eight innocent lives. This attack sheds light on the widespread fetishisation and objectification of Asian women across the world. It is not empowering to be the object of the white patriarchal gaze.
For years the media has fostered a deeply prejudiced perception of Asian women. It is dehumanizing that people who look like me are boxed into stereotypes I am now expected to conform to. It is harrowing to see how excuses are constantly made for men who “lack control”.
The Georgia County Sheriff said the shooter “was fed up and at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him.” Video of this statement went viral and is facing widespread criticism. Many friends and I took to our social media to condemn his words. I am appalled by the sympathy this sheriff offers to the killer. This sympathy costs lives and will continue to do so until people with authority say it how it is.
Where is the sympathy and acknowledgement of our actual victims? Was it not a horrific day for them and their whānau? A “bad day” does not justify any act of murder. Especially when every day on this earth has been a bad day for minorities. What are we if you won’t humanise us?
Delaina Ashley Yuan, Julie Park, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyeong Jeong Park, Yong A. Yue, Suncha Kim. These are the names of the people who were killed.
The more I have researched this attack the more disturbing it becomes. As the daughter of immigrants, as the niece of beauty workers I recognise these women like family. Many, like these women, migrated with nothing. Many, like these women, work in labour-intensive jobs, don’t speak English, put their heads down and take up as little space as possible. If we are not safe trying to make a living, then where?
Over the last 72 hours I have had many conversations with Asian-Kiwi friends about how they have been affected. Fish Kim, friend and fellow creative talked to me about an attack on her father’s elderly neighbour in the U.S. “It is so close to home. I am hurt and I am scared for my family,” they told me.
Another friend of mine, Bonnie Shum, was also vocal about how she felt. “I want to say I’m sorry for flooding your feeds with the recent stories but at the same time, I refuse to apologise for spreading the awareness and bringing to your attention the reality we face,” she says.
She minimises her daily presence to avert discrimination. Avoiding the supermarket during lockdown, being aware not to cough in public, not retaliating when people make racist comments.
I want to acknowledge the importance of taking time. Taking time to grieve, to be angry, but also recognising how emotionally depleted we all are.
In the words of Korean American writer Min Jin Lee, “In less than 48 hours, we had a historic Asian Oscar moment with multiple firsts in 93 years – then a mass shooting targeting three Asian-owned businesses. This is how terrorism works – you’re not allowed to feel safe, accepted, or valued.”
Racism is not our issue to solve, but we bear the brunt of it. No matter how outspoken I am, how much I love my culture, how much I differ from the typical stereotypes, I cannot solve racism.
It is the work of the privileged, the work of those in power, the work of the White to dismantle racism. I am sick of racism finding its way into positions of power, for systems of oppression to perpetuate. It is time we all take action.
Here is how to be an ally, how to be anti-racist, and how to stop Asian hate.
- Firstly, acknowledge the lives of these women, acknowledge the lives of those attacked before them, and start talking about it.
- Check on your Asian friends and family because this isn’t the last of these attacks. Mental health is a topic rarely touched on in Asian culture, please be kind and be patient. Some resources are linked below.
- Listen, learn and share Asian stories. Anti-racism takes many different forms, both learning and unlearning. For example, the model minority myth that Asian people have been assigned is a harmful stereotype. Not only does it dismiss centuries of oppression, but it measures minorities on a Western model, pinning minorities against each other.
- Donate. If you have the funds, there are some great organisations actively working to protect Asian people and speak out about their experiences. Links are below.
- Supporting local Asian-owned businesses like restaurants and stores is paramount. It’s hard enough to make a living and run your own business, with the recent attacks it must be terrifying. Kia kaha.
Mental Health resources
Asian Mental Health Collective: https://www.asianmhc.org/
Asian American Federation: https://www.aafederation.org/
Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand: https://mentalhealth.org.nz/
The AAPI Community Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-aapi-community-fund
Asian Americans Advancing Justice: https://secure.donationpay.org/aajc/
AAPI Women Lead: https://donorbox.org/racial-solidarity