Read my open poem about this topic here.
The tragic news that 8 people – 6 of whom were Asian women – have been massacred in Atlanta has shocked much of the world. It has angered many, especially since the murderer was arrested and taken alive. In a country when police are allowed to “shoot to kill”, you’d think a terrorist would have been shot dead. But no. And it has especially rocked the Asian American and East Asian communities worldwide following the spate of thousands of incidents against them.
Reported racist crimes against Asian Americans and East Asians around the world have increased dramatically since the start of 2020 so think of how many go unreported for whatever reasons the victims felt they didn’t want to or couldn’t talk to the police about. Our voices have been raised over the past 12 months but not enough. We’ve received support from many but not on the level of those supporting Black lives or women’s safety. Why not?
How many innocent lives had to be taken for the world to wake up and take note of what’s happening? Women are subject to sexual assaults so often but only now is there a huge uproar for their voices to be heard. Black people have been subject to police brutality and racism since forever but only in the past year and for the first time in a while have their cries for justice been further amplified. Do we need to stage mass vigils of hundreds and march in our thousands just to get our message across? We shouldn’t have to and we shouldn’t have to fight for our voices to be heard, but we do, despite the little impact we appear to have.
A lot of dreadful incidents against Asians and East Asians have happened recently, in particular against elderly Asian people in the U.S. and gang beatings in the U.K. Fortunately, most of the victims survived but even those who sadly didn’t, their stories were given little airtime or column space. They were featured in some media outlets but never talked about extensively and never written up and analysed in the media or discussed on popular talk shows that attract millions of viewers – unlike so many other causes. They were hidden and swamped by too many other news items. Take for example, this big piece of news – you need to scroll halfway down the front page of Sky News to find the article on it and it’s nowhere to be seen on the BBC or Guardian’s front pages – you have to actually search for it.
Now, “officially”, the idea that it was a racist hate crime has not been confirmed as investigations still continue. Police have simply relayed what the attacker told them – he has apparently denied it was racially motivated but the excuse given is that he has a “sex addiction” and was “having a bad day” so they believe he “lashed out” as a way to “eliminate temptation”. Yes, really. L
But even though no evidence (i.e. no admittance by the attacker) has been unearthed yet to say it was about race, that’s not to say it wasn’t. Is it just a coincidence that the majority of the victims happened to be Asian? Note that these spas that the shootings took place in have not been named as “disguised” massage parlours or linked to sex work to correlate with the idea that he had a sex addiction. And why is the word of this mass murderer being taken at face value? Many murderers throughout history have continued to deny the whole truth and lie whilst they are locked in jail for life or sit on death row.
I have already seen social media posts from people trying to deflect the unconfirmed allegation of it being a hate crime and not just a sex-mad madman on the loose only because that is what is being said by officials and what he has told them. This already brushes the increasingly pressing issue of anti-Asian hate crimes under the carpet, whether or not this was one of them.
Conspiracies are already circulating on social media about who the attacker was and his background – was he affiliated with or a supporter of White supremacy groups? Was he an avid Trump supporter? Was he a religious nut? Was he a racist? On the latter, a confirmed fake Facebook post appeared to depict him ranting about COVID-19 and China, spewing vile anti-China and Chinese sentiment. While that has been defunct, these people are doing their best to make sure everyone knows it’s fake while overlooking the idea that it could still have been a racist attack and that he was a racist.
Many are also quick to point out that there is, as of yet, no evidence he is involved with any White supremacy groups, which again, tries to push away race as a defining factor in this case. He is simply, for now, seen as a young White man who is basically not right in the head, to say the very least.
What is sad apart from this awful incident is that for the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) and ESEA (East and Southeast Asian) communities, only now are more people standing up against anti-Asian and East Asian hate crimes as this news becomes more widespread and takes precedent in “breaking news” stories – and the racist motive hasn’t even been officially confirmed for it despite others having been.
It has been heartwarming to see a number of high profile politicians, activists and celebrities, both Asian and non-Asian, say something about the recent crimes but heartbreaking that that our cause is still under the radar. For example, the racist attack on university professor Peng Wang in Southampton was the last of just a few highly reported crimes by the British media in the last 12 months and even then the coverage was not extensive.
Only the most horrific crimes have been mentioned and very few articles on the rise in these crimes have been published. And take this article on the Guardian website regarding the shootings that says “US on alert over possible anti-Asian American motive”. Why has it taken this incident for the US to only now apparently be “on alert”? What about the others? In actual fact, the Asian American (and the ESEA) communities have long been on alert. But of course the media take little notice of us to have realised this before until something like this happens.
The mainstream media need to step up and increase their coverage of all these incidents, be it vandalism, verbal abuse, online hate, physical attacks and killings. Asians are already not only under-represented in the media but our numbers behind the Western media are minuscule too. Without more of us there to push for our representation, only the “big” news about us will be run.
The only truly widespread news about anti-Asian racism in recent news was about actress Katie Leung’s experience from her Harry Potter days. If she had not been from the entertainment industry and in one of the biggest film franchises of all time (meaning many showbiz outlets reported on it as well as the regular media), let’s be honest, the story wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big.
And perpetrators need to be punished more severely. Only one of Peng’s attackers has been arrested so far and he was “under investigation” but two weeks later there has been no update. Only one of the four of Jonathan Mok’s attackers (the only major high profile anti-Chinese hate crime in the U.K. from last year), has as of January this year been sentenced and was given just an 18-month youth rehabilitation order, ordered to wear an electronic tag, follow a curfew order between 8pm and 7am for 10 weeks and told to pay his victim a mere £600 in compensation. The 16-year-old apparently “would have gone to jail for a very long time” had he been an adult, according to the Chair of the bench. A quite frankly, far too lenient and ridiculous punishment and a pathetic excuse that proves laws regarding age aide the criminal more than they help and protect the victim.
The anti-Asian and East Asian hate has to stop and we must raise our voices louder to be heard because the media won’t take much notice until we do something or someone does something worse! Below is a list of just a few British and American organisations striving to help protect and support individual victims and businesses that have been targeted since and even before the pandemic. And if you aren’t Asian, here’s one tip for you to take note of and action: stop watching and step up from the sidelines.