Where does the hate come from? That was the question on many people’s minds after the killing of women at three spas in Georgia on Tuesday drew even more attention to the targeting of Asian Americans in the year since the coronavirus pandemic was declared.
A 21-year-old man was arrested and charged with shooting to death eight people, including six Asian women, in metropolitan Atlanta. While officials said they were investigating the motive – they cited the suspect’s claim he had a “sex addiction” – there was growing outrage over the spate of attacks ever since the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in China, and politicians, including then-President Donald Trump, labeled it the “China virus.”
“Politicians didn’t invent prejudice, but they are exploiting it for political gain, and destroying lives in the process,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “During House hearings on anti-Asian violence Thursday, Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy, somehow managed to speak approvingly of lynchings – ‘Find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree…we take justice very seriously…’ – while excoriating China’s regime and its role in the pandemic. It was a virtuoso performance of false equivalency and incitement. But stoking racism and fear of immigrants has become one of the go-to tools of the Trumpist Republican Party.”
Jennifer Ho, the daughter of a refugee father from China and an immigrant mother from Jamaica, lived in the South for nearly 20 years. She wrote that “To be an Asian woman in America means you can’t just be what you are: a fully enfranchised human being. It means you are a blank screen on which others project their stories, especially, too often, their sexualized fantasies – because US culture has long presented Asian women as sexualized objects for White male enjoyment.” A professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Ho is the president of the Association for Asian American Studies.
“To be an Asian woman working in the US South in the massage industry means being an object, not a subject…It means further disappearing: being one of six women killed in what people aren’t even calling a racially motivated crime, although can there be any doubt that it was misogyny and toxic masculinity that killed you?”
CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout wrote from Hong Kong that “hate has turned my once proud and confident Asian-American mother into a shut-in. It’s not because of the virus as Covid-19 continues to rage in my home state of California. It’s because she is absolutely certain that as an older Asian woman with a limp she will be targeted by violence. THIS is the America she left her homeland for?”
Adeline Chen, a features producer in Atlanta for CNN International, took a road trip with her family through the South last summer because further travels seemed risky. “While on the surface, it might have seemed like a safe and socially distant trip, it felt anything but during this period of racial reckoning and a pandemic,” she wrote. “My daughter and I were often the sole minorities in RV parks surrounded by flags and signs supporting then-President Donald Trump, who routinely called Covid-19 the ‘China Virus’ or ‘Kung Flu.’… Many people can afford to excuse the ‘crazy uncle’ who says racist things, but in doing so, they allow unacceptable rhetoric that has real life harmful implications for those like myself, who cannot shed their skin – nor would want to.”
In just the first two months of this year, “Asian Americans have reported being targeted at least 500 times,” John Avlon pointed out. “In recent weeks, we’ve seen the murder of an 87-year-old Thai immigrant, Vichar Ratanapakdee, as well as the brutal assault of a 67-year-old man in San Francisco not named publicly, and the beating of 27-year-old Denny Kim in LA’s Koreatown, who says his attackers shouted ‘You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China.’”
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War of words
It didn’t take long. President Joe Biden isn’t even finished with his first 100 days in office and he’s already locked in a war of words with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday, Biden told interviewer George Stephanopoulos that he would indeed characterize Putin as a “killer” and said he would “pay a price” after a US government intelligence report accusing Russia of meddling in the 2020 election to help Donald Trump. Putin answered Biden, “I wish you health.” As Russia expert Daniel Treisman wrote, “It was an interesting choice of phrase for a leader accused of having his enemies poisoned…All this suggests the depths to which US-Russia relations have sunk.”
Biden’s policy on Russia couldn’t be more different from Trump’s. But on China, the two administrations may have a lot in common. At the end of last week, Biden’s team brought together the leaders of the “Quad” countries – Australia, India, Japan and the US. Lisa Curtis, who was deputy assistant to Trump and a director on the National Security Council, called the Biden move “a remarkable demonstration that it will not only build on the momentum the alliance has gained over the last three years, but also make it the centerpiece of the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy,” to counter “the rising superpower,” China.