Are We Doing Enough About the Hate You Give?
It’s taken me the last week to sort through the pain that type of questions we as members of a healthy society should not routinely be forced to ask or answer. These were the same questions that shook me with hurt and anger less than a year ago. Being forced to deal with these questions are wicked, and deeply, deeply painful. Yet, here we are again with another instance of a grim reality of modern American life. And yet again I am, we are, facing a frenzied examination of motives and meaning. Were the murders of Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Yong Ae Yu, 63; Daoyou Feng, 44; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Paul Andre Michels, 54; and Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33 in Atlanta last Monday motivated by racism, misogyny, religion, revenge, or a combination of all these?
I’m not certain. But there are four things that I know to be true.
First, these eight people — six of Asian descent and seven women — shot to death in Georgia are an excruciatingly painful and yet familiar American phenomenon that breaks my heart for their families and communities. Before saying anything further, we must first honor the memory of these remarkable people who were just trying to do what we’re all trying to do: live their lives with dignity. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of sorrow that their loved ones are feeling, nor can they heal wounded hearts.
I can only hope it helps their loved ones to know that they are not alone in their sorrow. We’ve pulled our families and friends tight, and across the country we have wept in grief. Our brothers and sisters in the Asian American & Pacific Islander community must know that whatever measure of comfort their fellow Americans can provide, we will. They have inspired all of us with stories of strength, resolve, and sacrifice. And they have not only inspired us with their bravery but also with their compassion. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, the Asian American & Pacific Islander community has looked out for one another and loved one another.
A Different Asian American Timeline: This timeline covers nearly 600 years of history starting with the early Atlantic slave trade in the 15th Century, tracing the rise of modern nation-states, and covering events that have affected people across racial boundaries. www.changelabinfo.com/research/a-different-asian-american-timeline
Stop AAPI Hate: In response to the alarming escalation in xenophobia and bigotry resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center was launched, which tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. stopaapihate.org
Anti-Asian Violence Resources: Links to help individuals educate others, take action, donate, and more. anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co
Second, while it's difficult to disentangle the vile pathologies that lead a man to take so many innocent lives, it is also impossible to ignore the anti-Asian history in which the murders were committed. As Americans, we must reckon with a past that includes one of the worst mass lynchings in American history, Chinese exclusion, assaults on Filipino farmworkers, Japanese internment, xenophobia directed at South Asian and Muslim communities after 9/11, and most recently hateful, racial slurs from the highest levels of the United States government. This recent onslaught of anti-Asian violence is firmly rooted in our country’s long history of systemic and cultural racism against people of Asian descent.
Third, these murders and the violence that the Asian American & Pacific Islander community are experiencing is inseparable from an epidemic of violence against women. In an analysis of nearly 4,000 hate-related incidents targeting Asian-Americans documented this year and last, nearly 70% of the victims were women, according to a report by the group Stop AAPI Hate. Said another way, Asian women experienced violence nearly 2.5 times more than Asian men.
Thinking about this dynamic, coupled with where the Atlanta murders took place, I find myself placing what happened last week in the context of another grim history of misogyny directed at Chinese women in this country that predates Chinese exclusion. This recent history has been outlined by May Jeong from Vanity Fair. This history, and the murderer’s claims of sexual addiction, make it impossible to ignore the link between racism and misogyny – but also the connection to classism. It is this fourth aspect of this tragedy that is already well-known to many of us in our work at Alluma, namely the belief that some people “deserve” our respect while others don’t based on their class. For those of us at Alluma who work every day to connect women of color, immigrant women, and poor women to help when they need it, this dynamic is very familiar. When news of the murders broke out, people immediately began making jokes on Twitter, making light of not only the violent killing of six women but using speculation and unsubstantiated stereotypes of their “sex work” to dehumanize them. These women were female blue-collar workers, and this difference between who is respected and who isn’t should not have been a death sentence.
Finally, this spate of violence against the Asian American & Pacific Islander community is reflective of and emerges from the white supremacy that devalues people of color across the United States and around the world. They’re inseparable from the inequity faced by workers who labor at the margins, and by immigrants labeled as “other” by society rather than embraced as our fellow Americans. As working women of color, these women lived and died in a world where Asian American women are too often scapegoated, marginalized, and demonized for simply trying to work to put food on the table.
These four truths leave me with some hard questions for myself, for Alluma, and for our nation. This strain of inequity, and everything wrapped inside of it, is not merely part of our history but a stark reminder of a clear and present crisis. In the aftermath of this tragedy, will we focus not just on anti-Asian violence but also on violence against women and violence against the poor? Are we doing enough to ensure that fighting injustice means fighting injustice — not just myopically in one's own narrowly defined community — but in other communities as well?
But can we claim, as a nation, we’re truly doing enough to give all the families of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in security and happiness?
As human beings, our first task is caring for our families and loved ones. It’s our first job. And as the wealthiest country in the world, it ought to be our country’s first job to create the kind of society where all families are safe from harm. But can we claim, as a nation, we’re truly doing enough to give all the families of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in security and happiness?
The answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Since I last wrote about the racial violence in our country, there has been an endless series of violent, sometimes deadly, events across the country, almost daily. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and the solutions aren't simple, and that is true. But that is no excuse for acceptance. Surely, we can do better than this.
My Alluma colleagues and I stand with the Asian American & Pacific Islander community and the Asian immigrant community. We affirm our solidarity with Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Asian immigrant communities whose lives and futures matter and whose opportunities we fight for as part of our efforts to uplift shared histories and struggles between communities of color, immigrant communities and poor communities. It is also why we’ll make every effort to continue the work of deepening our understanding of the different ways in which white supremacy, anti-Blackness, systemic racism, and economic inequity prevent anyone from being connected to opportunity and security.
Robert Phillips leads the strategic direction, fiscal stewardship, daily operations, and overall management of Alluma as CEO. A healthcare advocate and philanthropist, Robert joined the Board of Alluma (then Social Interest Solutions) in 2006, and became President of the Board and CEO in 2017. Follow Robert on LinkedIn and Twitter.