Tuesday, March 23, 2021

America's Sexualized Racism?

nbcnews  |  The only time I was ever in Atlanta, where six Asian women were shot dead on Tuesday, a young white man shouted "Me so horny" to me at the airport. And as the only Asian woman in the space, I knew he was talking to me. I locked eyes with him for a second and then rushed off to catch my flight back to Los Angeles. I was in Atlanta to attend the annual meeting of the Association of Asian American Studies, presenting a paper there for the first time. It was a big deal for me professionally. But what I remember most about that trip were a white man's racist, sexist words.

Tuesday's killings occurred at three spas in the Atlanta area. Two other victims, a white man and a white woman, were also killed. Investigators said the white male suspect told them that he has a "sex addiction" and targeted the spas to "take out that temptation."

"He was fed up, at the end of his rope," Cherokee County sheriff's Capt. Jay Baker said. "He had a bad day, and this is what he did."

Based on the reported statement, investigators have so far concluded that the attacks did not appear to have been motivated by race. As an Asian American woman who has endured sexualized racism all of my life, such ignorance enrages me.

Asian women, along with Black and Indigenous women and other women of color, endure racism and sexism in intersectional ways constantly, and they have throughout history. As lawyer Jaemin Kim argued in 2009, prosecutors and police may be even less likely to add "hate crime" charges in cases of rapes and sexual assaults targeting Asian women.

In 1875, Chinese women were targeted by a federal immigration law called the Page Act. This law effectively banned the immigration of Chinese women to the United States based on a morals clause that considered all of them prostitutes at the time. There were apparently specific racist and sexist concerns that Chinese "prostitutes" would bring in "especially virulent strains of venereal diseases ... and entice young white boys to a life of sin." Sound familiar?