The Guardian • Issue #1955

Then they came for Asians

Anti-Asian massacre linked to anti-China hysteria

A 21-year-old white male has admitted to shooting eight people to death, including six women of Asian descent in and around Atlanta, Georgia, US. Concerned groups have hit the streets, calling for an end to anti-Asian racism and sexism, acknowledging the rise in anti-China propaganda as a source of the shooter’s actions, and a rise in assaults against Asian Americans in general. Asian Australians also feel the brunt of the constant media attacks on China from both left and right forces, with racist assaults and threats escalating over the past year. Regardless of the Biden or Morrison governments’ seemingly sympathetic responses against anti-Asian sentiment, any effort to temper irresponsible reporting on China has not been made, and military threats towards China continue to intensify.

On his killing spree, Robert Aaron Long visited three day spas where six of the victims he murdered were women of Asian descent who were working, while another victim was a customer, and another doing maintenance work. While he told police his attacks were not racially motivated, it was later reported that a surviving witness had heard him say “I’m going to kill all Asians.”

The mainstream media refuses to label the massacre as a hate crime, or a terrorist attack, in typical ignorance of atrocities based on white supremacy. A spokesperson for the local sheriff’s office even minimised the attack due to Long having had “a really bad day.” According to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, three out of four mass shootings in the US can be linked back to white extremism. Thankfully, Long was apprehended on his way to Florida before he was able to continue his rampage at other day spas, as he admitted he was planning to do later in custody.

Following the shooting, Chinese-American New Yorker writer Jiayang Fan, stated that “the anti-Asian hate is real,” explaining that even prior to the shooting, she no longer felt safe travelling alone after dark as an Asian-American, after hearing of growing assaults on Asian people since January. According to the Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism, assaults against people of Asian descent in the US have increased by almost 150 per cent between 2019 and 2020.

However, the US is not the only country with higher occurring instances of anti-Asian racism. The Australian National University conducted a study finding more than eight in ten Asian-Australians have experienced discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples include a woman spitting on someone of Asian descent, another being punched in the face, and others receiving death threats. Asian-Australian Councillors Kun Huang, Craig Chung, and Christina Wu have all received death threats in which they were blamed for the pandemic and bringing disease to Australia for “centuries.”

And although the Scanlon Foundation’s latest survey found Australians to generally have a positive attitude towards multiculturalism, the sentiment was not shared with those of Chinese descent, where participants in the survey reported a whopping forty-seven per cent having negative feelings towards Chinese-Australians.

So what does this mean for people in Australia of Asian descent? Following the Christchurch shooting of fifty-one people in a mosque by a white supremacist, a New Zealand study found that previous to that atrocity, there was a “substantially greater perceived threat and negativity towards Muslims compared with other groups. In particular, older people, New Zealanders of European descent, men, and those with more right-wing attitudes reported greater fear of and negativity towards Muslims.” A white supremacist terrorist attack on Asian Australians is a concerning conjecture in the current climate when analysing the statistics of these attitudes.

In a study being conducted by the Asian Australian Alliance, it was found that sixty-five per cent of those who reported racist behaviour towards them were women. There is a long and disturbing history of Asian women being fetishised and perceived purely as sexual objects, in the context of colonialism. Korean, Chinese, Philippino and Vietnamese women have suffered terribly as part of violent imperialist culture, and continue to be objectified more intensely than other women. This insulting perception of Asian women has led to disproportionate violence amongst the demographic, for instance, in the recent Atlanta shooting. Long admitted to having fantasies of “eliminating temptation,” in reference to blaming Asian women for his own guilt over sexual arousal. He did not choose to go to strip clubs or brothels, but particularly to spas where Asian women work.

Although anti-Asian racism has been ramping up across the Global North, it is not a new phenomenon. Freelance Asian Australian writer, Siami Jeong evoked memories of being bullied and minimised throughout her childhood. “White Australians who say racist things live in a country conquered by people who look like them. Their belief in their own superiority is immense. They still consider this land theirs. I, on the other hand, have been let in.” This kind of racism stems back to the early colonial days, when the White Australia Policy was enacted, to disadvantage early Chinese settlers and create fear of the many Asian populations in the region. Unfortunately, these attitudes persist amongst many white Australians today.

So why the ramping up in anti-Asian racism? Australian mainstream publications, including the publicly-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) have stooped to spurting drivel from sources such as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which exists purely as a US defence policy think tank to demonise China. As China continues to develop peacefully, its markets have also grown exponentially, and it has become a strong competitor on the global stage, which threatens the US empire’s domination. The US has been able to maintain strategic and political power over many countries in the world, creating ongoing suffering for millions, and ongoing profits for its companies. For this reason, it is clear to see why a change in leadership in the US would not necessarily change its attitude towards China.

To deflect from this blatant hegemonic influence, a new cold war style propaganda machine against the Chinese has been funded to create fear of “Yellow Peril” and communism. In this way, military aggression against China can be more easily justified and supported by the Western working class.

But it is not only the mainstream media and rightwing think tanks spouting anti-China rhetoric. Many so-called Western leftists parrot US-sponsored talking points coming from unreliable sources, making hypocritical and fabricated arguments about China’s ‘human rights violations’. It is curious that Australian activists would prioritise the condemnation of China in such a climate of racism towards Asians, while the global community has condemned Australia for its own human rights violations. In particular, the United Nations Human Rights Council has recently made serious recommendations for Australia to improve its record on war crimes, racial discrimination, immigration detention and treatment of First Nations peoples.

As the young Asian Australian writer Jeong argued, “When a school insists its teachers and students don’t need to learn more about racism, when a politician denies there is racism in saying people from Asia are taking our jobs and homes, when sympathetic people tell us not to worry – I worry.” It is time for Australians to take Asian discriminiation seriously, as it is clear where reckless insensitivity can lead.

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