The horrible event that unfolded earlier this week in Atlanta must be classified as a hate crime.
The available evidence indicates the domestic terrorist — and let’s not argue that fact — deliberately targeted women of Asian descent. He wanted to kill them for no other reason than their ethnicity. The indefensible comments made by one police official who said the accused murderer was having a bad day serves only to attempt to diminish the hatred that lived inside the young man.
Donald Trump did not birth anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S.; sadly, such hate has a long history in this country. However, he bears the biggest blame for unleashing the now year-long assault against Asians first by defiantly and angrily calling coronavirus the “Wuhan virus.” Second, his enmity for China was furthered through multiple (and debunked) claims that Beijing was undermining his re-election effort.
He was wrong about the virus and about election interference. His supporters didn’t care, and perhaps worse his words gave credence to the prejudice millions of other Americans already felt about Asians. It didn’t matter if that person had Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian or any other Asian history; all Asians were simply grouped into one unit and labelled bad. That’s the way stereotyping and ignorance work.
What took place in Atlanta is the worst demonstration of hatred. But don’t forget the recent media reports noting that close to 4,000 hate incidents against Asians have been documented over the past year. Documented is the keyword; that figure doesn’t account for every instance.
The former president regularly tapped into long-standing but dormant dislike of people who are non-White, non-male and non-Christian. Significant pockets of America, already fearing the effects of the pandemic, conveniently blamed Asians for their worries. Illogical? Obviously. But there is never anything logical about prejudice or racism.
As a result, a word or two here and an act or two of hostility there and suddenly more and more Asians living all across the U.S. knew at any minute they or their loved ones might be the victim of a hate crime. The former president’s reply would have been a shrug of the shoulders. Thankfully, his successor has said the right things about hate having no place in America.
The women who were murdered in Atlanta this week are gone, but their names and what happened to them must remain alive. And all of us who assert we are open-minded and not prejudiced must lead that effort, demand justice for what happened to them and counter every instance of anti-Asian hate we see in the future.