This week, 8 people were killed at three different spas in North Georgia. Six Asian American women’s lives were ended when they were killed in a mass shooting by a white man (arrested and reported as “having a bad day” by police — an outright example of privilege and white supremacy) at an Asian-owned spa. This act is one more incident in a wave of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to NYPD data, the number of crimes against Asian Americans has jumped by 1900% in the last year alone. Stop AAPI Hate has received more than 3,800 anti-Asian hate crime reports in the United States since the start of the pandemic. Words matter: this is the direct result of those in power inciting racial violence with rhetoric like “The China Virus.” While the COVID-19 circumstances may be new, make no mistake: violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is as old as the United States itself. For as long as the United States has been a country, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been dehumanized and made scapegoats for national crises:
- In the late 1800s, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first law in the United States to ban immigrants based on race, was passed, in response to a wave of anti-Asian racism
- Starting in the first half of the 20th century, Asian American immigrants were deemed “a yellow peril,” by media and government, resulting in a wave of racist propaganda and violence in the United States.
- During World War II in 1942, over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were “deemed suspicious” based on race and imprisoned in American internment camps.
- During the rise of SARS, Chinese and other Southeast Asian communities faced a wave of violence and racial discrimination in the United States.
- Like the massage parlor victims, AAPI women have faced centuries of oversexualization and dehumanization. For nearly a century, AAPI women have been fetishized by American media. At the same time, AAPI men have been emasculated in media representation.