The Guardian view on anti-Asian hate: not just a pandemic problem

The killings in Atlanta come in the context of a recent global surge in abuse and assaults, with deeper roots

The fear, anger and heartbreak felt when news broke that eight people had been killed in shootings in Atlanta on Wednesday, six of them women of Asian descent, was multiplied by the extraordinary response of authorities: “Yesterday was a really bad day for him,” a Georgia sheriff’s captain remarked of the suspect.

For many Asian Americans, it was further evidence that crimes against their community are not being taken seriously, even as they surge. Police said that the suspect “gave no indicators” that his actions were racially motivated, talking of a sex addiction and saying he was trying “to take out that temptation”. It is hard to think of language more dehumanising. These shootings targeted Asian-owned spa and massage facilities 30 miles apart and claimed the lives primarily of Asian women. They took place in a country which has a history of treating Asian migrants, or those of Asian descent, as undesirable or sinister, and of portraying east and south-east Asian women as hypersexualised. (The first federal anti-immigration law in the US targeted Chinese women, on a pretext of tackling prostitution, but in reality to prevent Chinese families from settling.) Wednesday’s victims were regarded as sex workers, whether or not that was the case. Bee Nguyen, a Georgia state representative, said that the shooting appeared to be at the “intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny and xenophobia”.

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