In November 2020, we voted a white supremacist out of the White House but we didn’t vote white supremacy out of America. And this is something racialized people are reminded of every day whether through micro-aggressions, racist comments by lawmakers or mass shootings targeting people who look like them.
On March 16th, eight people were killed in Georgia, and six of them were Asian-American women. Three Atlanta-area spas were targeted in a series of mass shootings that have brought to the forefront, once again, America’s struggle with gun violence, white supremacy, misogyny and racism. One would be remiss to not mention the celebration of International Women’s Day just eight days before, where while we all continued to pay lip service to the importance of empowering and celebrating women simultaneously allowed a woman who spoke up about racism in the royal family be ridiculed and doubted.
Back on the other side of the pond, violence against the Asian community is nothing new but there has been a recent uptick. We are reminded that language matters and when leaders parrot the misconception that Covid-19 is linked to Asian people and media outlets refuse to call violence what it is, real damage is done. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the incidence of hate crimes against the Asian-American community rose by 149% from 2019 to 2020 in 16 U.S. cities.
A 21 year-old man committed murderous hate crimes in Atlanta and white supremacy was quick to explain away the harm he caused. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Captain Jay Baker, said,“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” The ability to minimize committing murder as merely having a bad day is infuriating and heartbreaking but also a poignant example of white supremacy at work. It is a way for victims to be blamed and perpetrators to be excused without any responsibility or consequence. But human beings are not a temptation to be eliminated, as the shooter told officers, and we will not allow those whose lives were taken to be minimized and forgotten.
Law enforcement in the U.S. does not offer this same protection to non-white people and was never meant to. Captain Baker’s remarks are only further compounded by the FBI Director’s initial assessment that these shootings did “not appear to be racially motivated,”. Local leaders including the Atlanta mayor noted how it’s hard to ignore the identity of most of the victims. How can we not see this series of shootings as racially motivated? People of color are not afforded the luxury of bad days; bad days could mean the difference between life and death. Even good days could be your last with law enforcement accusing and pursuing you, it’s the reality of the non-white existence in this country.
Each mass shooting in this country garners shock, horror, thoughts and prayers but never a turning point where we choose equality and public safety over gun rights and white supremacy. Harm to people of color is not seen as a credible threat and that must change. White supremacy aims to divide us and is a threat to the democracy we say we so cherish and spent 2020 working towards.
Our work did not end in the voting booth (or at the mailbox for those of us who voted by mail). Our work is far from over. We stand in solidarity with the AAPI community and with those who believe there is no place for white supremacy in our democracy.