Speak out against mass shootings and AAPI violence
I’m breaking from the usual format of our newsletter this week, given the recent events that have affected multiple communities to which I belong.
Yesterday, I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown after spending hours calling friends who live in Boulder, Colorado, where a mass shooting took place and 10 lives were lost. This came on the heels of a week of difficult conversations with family members about the mass shooting that took place in Atlanta last week and took the lives of 8, including 6 East Asian women.
While I didn’t personally know any of the four Korean women who were murdered at Gold Spa, I was struck by this tragic incident because I have worked with dozens of Korean spa owners across the country over the past 12 years, as a marketing consultant. I am deeply familiar with how dangerous their jobs can be because of racist stereotypes that increase the likelihood of sexual assault, whether they are sex workers or not. I am still haunted by a conversation that I had with one business owner who shared horrific stories about how she and many others have been sexually assaulted and verbally harassed, after her spa was robbed. She called the police once but learned that she could not rely on them for help, after they accused her of prostitution and threatened to take away her visa. I was reminded of her stories when the police Captain and spokesman empathized with the murderer and described his violent rampage as an act of desperation driven by a “sex addiction.” I was not surprised to learn that he promoted anti-Asian t-shirts on Facebook.
I do not empathize with the murderer’s supposed sex addiction and neither should you. This narrative is part and parcel of a long tradition of anti-Asian scapegoating and the fetishization and misogyny against Asian women. Addiction does not cause violence and certainly does not justify it.
There’s so much more to all of this than I can cover right now but there’s one more aspect that I think needs to be addressed. Violent events like the shooting in Atlanta, the surge in anti-Asian epithets, and violent attacks against the AAPI community can have pernicious effects even when you are not the victim. My mother, for example, has not been attacked but is so terrified of being victimized that she doesn’t even want to go outside to walk her dog around the block. Her fear is understandable given that a close family friend, who is a taxicab driver, was punched in the face by one of her passengers after he misplaced his cell phone and decided it was somehow her fault. Her assault is a common trend among the surge in the violence against the AAPI community. Two out of three anti-Asian incidents are reported by Asian women. Another reason for my mother’s fear is the increasing number of reports of unprovoked violence targeted toward Asian Americans over the age of 60 like this 76-year-old Asian woman who was punched in the face as she was waiting to cross the street. Stories like these are deeply unsettling. How can anyone feel safe when some people, who just by looking at you, feel a hatred so deep that they viciously assault you and your 2-year-old and 6-year-old children with a box cutter; or light your grandmother on fire; or throw acid on your face while you’re taking out the trash.
I hope that you will stand with me in denouncing this violence and supporting the victims of these heinous attacks. If have been affected by these events, whether directly or indirectly, your distress matters. Don’t suffer in silence. Please reach out to someone you trust. You can also always reach out to me anytime. None of us should ever have to go through challenging times alone.