A presidential trip to Atlanta, Georgia was originally intended to fuel the Covid-19 recovery effort. Instead, the main focus was on the killing of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian origin.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at Emory University on Friday following Tuesday’s mass shootings that targeted three spas in the Atlanta area. Although the target companies were Asian-owned and mostly occupied by Asian and Asian American women, federal and local law enforcement officials were reluctant to say the shootings were racially motivated. However, Biden and Harris directly linked the attack to an increase in violence against people of Asian descent in the United States.
“Too many Asian Americans have walked up and down the streets worrying. They woke up every morning over the past year feeling that their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake,” said Biden. “You have been attacked, accused, scapegoated and harassed. They were verbally abused, physically assaulted and killed. “
“It was a year of fear for their lives just to walk down the street,” he said.
Vox’s Terry Nguyen reported that violence against Asian Americans has increased over the past year. “According to an analysis by the Center for Hate and Extremism Research at the CSU San Bernardino, the number of reported anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 of America’s largest cities rose by almost 150 percent in 2020,” wrote Nguyen. “Certain members of the Asian community – women and the elderly – also appear to be more vulnerable to attack and harassment than others.”
Much of this violence has been attributed to the racist rhetoric and xenophobia that have been linked to the spread of the coronavirus, which scientists believe originated in China. There have been at least 3,795 physical and verbal anti-Asian incidents in the U.S. since March 2020, according to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization tracking anti-Asian sentiment.
Harris said Friday that it was “people in the tallest pulpits who were spreading this type of hatred,” a statement seen as a reference to Republican Congressmen and the Trump administration – including former President Donald Trump – the derogatory Have used language to describe the coronavirus, including the term “kung flu”.
Harris also described the history of racism against people of Asian descent in America, from 19th century exclusion laws that severely restricted Chinese immigration to the internment camps where Japanese Americans were held in the 1940s. She said that story led to profound prejudice and was part of what led to recent violence.
And she specifically highlighted the nearly 3,800 reported incidents of assault and harassment against Asian Americans – two-thirds of which involved women – while Biden said many incidents go undetected.
“There are just some core values and beliefs that should bring us together as Americans. One of them stands together against hatred, against racism – the ugly poison that has long haunted and plagued our nation, “said Biden.
Addressing the fact that the shooting raised concerns about gun violence and misogyny, as well as racism, Biden also referred to the shootings as “another example of the public health crisis, gun violence in this country”.
He named two laws – the Act against Violence Against Women, recently renewed by the House of Representatives, and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which extends federal hate crime laws and an expedited federal review of hate crimes related to coronavirus would require – as swift approval is required. Both bills are still pending in Congress. Beyond legislation, he added, cultural change is also necessary to end the alignment of people on the basis of race and gender.
An investigation into the Atlanta shooting is ongoing
The White House remarks came as authorities continued their investigation into the 21-year-old suspect in the murders. He is being investigated on eight murder cases, but it has not yet been determined whether he will also be charged under a new hate crime law in Georgia.
The state’s new hate crime law was enacted last summer after Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was gunned down by local mayors while he was on the run. His death was videotaped and the white men who killed him were charged with murder.
At the time, Georgia was one of only four states that did not impose hate crimes punishment. While Georgia still does not have a standalone hate crime charge, another charge – in this case, murder – can be added to increase the sentence. The law applies when the offense targets individuals based on gender, gender, race, religion, national origin, sexuality, or a disability. If a person is convicted of a crime, the additional fee would add at least two years in prison and a fine of up to $ 5,000.
Police officers in Cherokee County, the site of two of the three shootings, were criticized after a sheriff’s deputy said the alleged shooter’s stated motivation was not racism but the eradication of sexual temptation. Proponents say Asian women and Asian-owned spas’ association with sexual temptation stems from historical racism, fetishization, and misogyny.
As Vox’s Li Zhou wrote, “Attacks against Asian Americans cannot be segregated by race and gender”:
The central problem with this stereotype is that it dehumanizes Asian American women and reduces them solely to sexual objects. This dehumanization, in turn, continues and tolerates violence against these groups.
This dynamic, coupled with the proliferation of the “model minority myth,” which seeks to drive a wedge between minority groups and treats the Asian-American experience as extraordinary and homogeneous, makes the pain and violence that Asian American women endure invisible.
“Dehumanization creates a climate that makes violence excusable,” says Morgan Dewey, the development coordinator for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Forty-one to 61 percent of Asian women report having experienced physical and / or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. This is significantly higher than for any other ethnic group. “
However, unless the Georgia Attorney General fails to bring hate crime charges, the alleged shooter could continue to prosecute federal hate crimes. According to the Associated Press, federal investigators have not yet received enough evidence to pursue these allegations. The bar is high and generally requires the explicit formulation of hateful motivations, such as professing white supremacist beliefs.
In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, said his team supports local law enforcement and repeat officials in Cherokee County. The FBI has no evidence that the shootings were racist attacks.
“While the motive is currently under investigation, it does not appear that the motive was racially motivated,” Wray said. “But I would really limit myself to state and local investigations for now.”
On the same day, Atlanta deputy police chief Charles Hampton said his team had not ruled out a possible classification of hate crimes in a press conference.
“Nothing is off the table for our investigation,” he said.
The Atlanta investigation is different from the Cherokee County investigation, according to an Atlanta police spokesman.
The alleged gunman is being held in Cherokee County Jail and faces a minimum life sentence if convicted of a single murder. he was charged with eight counts. Georgia also has the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek it.
According to a separate AP report, some local leaders are calling for hate crimes to be expelled. Democratic State Senator Michelle Au, who is of Chinese descent, said the indictment would expose the way Asian Americans are being attacked.
“People feel like they are getting gas because they see it happen every day,” said Au. “They feel like it’s racially motivated, but it’s not that tied or labeled. And people are frustrated that there is a lack of visibility and that aspect is being ignored. “
“It is important that the law call things as they are,” said Republican MP Chuck Efstration. “It’s important to the victims and it’s important to society.”
An investigation into hate crimes would also require the collection of additional data. Lawyers told the AP that this could lead to increased resources to investigate and prevent future hate crimes.