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Trevor Noah slams claim that racism didn’t motivate Atlanta shootings: ‘Your murders speak louder than your words’

On March 17, late-night television hosts argued that the Atlanta shootings that left six Asian women dead were motivated by racism. (Video: The Washington Post)

As Asian Americans reacted with horror and outrage to mass shootings in Atlanta that left eight dead, including six Asian women, police said on Wednesday that the 21-year-old, White suspect said racism wasn’t a factor in the killings.

That claim left Trevor Noah, like many observers, aghast.

“You killed six Asian people. Specifically, you went there,” the late-night host said. “Your murders speak louder than your words.”

Asian Americans see shooting as a culmination of a year of racism

In fact, Noah argued in an impassioned monologue on “The Daily Show” on Wednesday night, the mass killing felt like the infuriatingly obvious outcome of months of unchecked hate crimes against Asian Americans.

“What makes it even more painful is that we saw it coming. We see these things happening. People have been warning, people in the Asian communities have been tweeting, they’ve been saying, 'Please help us. We’re getting punched in the street. We’re getting slurs written on our doors,’ ” Noah said. “We’ve seen this happening.”

As Asian American leaders on Wednesday urged police to consider whether racial hatred drove Robert Aaron Long to allegedly carry out a mass killing, Noah and his fellow late-night host Stephen Colbert sounded off on authorities for their handling of the case and urged the country to do more to combat a rising tide of intolerance.

Police say they have not ruled out any motives in the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, although they said Long blamed a “sex addiction” after he was arrested, saying he wanted to eliminate temptation by targeting the businesses. Advocates, though, noted that racism, sexism and misogyny are often closely related in violent attacks, The Washington Post reported.

Noah made a similar argument in dissecting Long’s claims.

“Racism, misogyny, gun violence, mental illness, and honestly, this incident might have been all of those things combined because it doesn’t have to be one thing on its own,” Noah said. “America is a rich tapestry of mass shooting motivations.”

But in a shooting that left six Asian women dead and specifically targeted businesses known to employ Asians, Noah said, it’s absurd to claim that racism wasn’t a key factor.

“Whatever you do, please don’t tell me that this thing had nothing to do with race, even if the shooter says that he thinks it had to do with his sex addiction,” he said. “You can’t disconnect this violence from the racial stereotypes that people attach to Asian women.”

Noah also took police to task for how they have portrayed Long, taking particular aim at Cherokee County sheriff’s office Capt. Jay Baker, who said that the suspect had “a really bad day” and was “at the end of his rope.” A non-White suspect, Noah suggested, would never get such a sympathetic read from a police official.

“You see the police officer come out and almost try to humanize the shooter more than the people who got shot,” Noah said. “It’s always interesting who the police try to find the humanity in. I can guarantee you if a Black person or a Brown person went on a mass killing spree in a White neighborhood, not a ... police officer would go on TV to say, ‘Well, he was kind of at the end of his rope.’ ”

Colbert, on “The Late Show,” sounded a similar theme in a somber monologue to open Wednesday’s show.

“I see on TV that police are reporting the guy who admits he did it says it had nothing to do with race. But why should we believe him? He’s the murderer,” Colbert said. “The fact is six Asian women are dead at a time when that community is already living under a cloud of fear.”

Noah urged his viewers to take action by volunteering with anti-racism organizations and connecting directly with Asian Americans.

“We can all do something to try to fight against this. We can’t stop every evil person; please, I’m not saying that,” he said. “What we can try to do is create an environment where we’re not letting specific people be targeted because of the color of their skin.”