Editorial: The dehumanization of Asian women and the myth of “one bad day”

Editorial Board

On March 16 in Atlanta, a white man went to three spas and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

In a time where COVID-19 has dominated our thoughts and our headlines, America is once again a nation of mass shootings, once again perpetrated by an angry white man. And once again, America is failing to understand why this is happening.

Despite the majority of the victims being women of Asian descent, the Atlanta police have resisted classifying the shooting as a racist hate crime. Why? Because the shooter told them his actions were not racially motivated, but were instead the result of his sex addiction and an attempt to eliminate his temptations. And the police have seemingly taken him at his word.

As if that was not enough of a slap in the face to the victims and the Asian American community at large, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker said that the shooter “was pretty much fed up, and kind of at [the] end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” As if gunning down Asian women is just a natural result of having a bad day.

But it isn’t. Violence, especially racist, misogynist violence, does not come from having one bad day. To say so is to erase the real issues behind the act. The issues of racism and misogyny that motivate violent crimes such as this. The issues of the dehumanization, exoticization and fetishization of Asian women. The issues of a lack of comprehensive gun control laws that allowed the shooter to buy a gun hours before the shooting. And the issues that prevent perpetrators—terrorists—from being held responsible. Also let’s remember that while the last year has sparked a dramatic increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, anti-Asian rhetoric and actions date back for centuries. This is nothing new.

These issues are embedded deep within America, and we cannot misconstrue this incident to be about sex addictions or bad days. It is not fair to the marginalized people of this country who, as this act of violence morbidly demonstrates, face the threat of hate crimes everyday.