“A really bad day for him”? “Not racially motivated”? C’mon, man. When six of the eight people killed by a White man were Asian, that claim seriously strains credulity. Especially after a year in which discrimination and violence against Asian Americans have skyrocketed thanks in part to President Donald Trump and others who described the coronavirus pandemic in racist terms.
But let’s be honest. Scapegoating is as American as apple pie. And because there’s almost always a racial or ethnic dynamic to it in our country, scapegoating is the evil cousin of white supremacy. Together, they reinforce the notion that White is always in the right. Always given the benefit of the doubt. Always given deference.
Therefore, the lives of the Asian victims in the Atlanta area are diminished while the tortured feelings of the White man who killed them are given due consideration. And as a Black man in America, I want to know this: How does a White mass shooter seem to always get captured “without incident”?
The mass shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 was caught without incident. When the arresting officer first saw the 19-year-old, he told The Washington Post, “He looked like a typical high school student.”
And according to NBCNews.com, the white nationalist who killed nine Black parishioners as they prayed in their Charleston, S.C., church in 2015 was captured “without incident” during a traffic stop. And, no, the arresting officers did not take him Burger King, as widely believed. They went out and bought it and brought it back to him in jail.
Meanwhile, far too many Blacks don’t survive their encounters with police. The world watched the waning life of 46-year-old George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer so blasé about the whole thing that he put his hand in his pocket during the cell-phone-recorded horror. Floyd’s alleged offense? Trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20.
The indifference to lives not White must stop. The disregard for the fear of white terror must stop. And the lonely suffering in silence by those not White must stop.
The pain of that last point was brought home during an interview on Friday with Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.). The second-term legislator who is only the second Korean American elected to Congress was explaining what he learned from an Asian woman he talked to recently. Fear of retaliation if she reported instances of abuse was one reason why she said she doesn’t do so. But Kim shared the other reason why she didn’t.
What she said to me is, “No, I didn’t, because I didn’t think anyone would care,” is how she framed it. And that just hit me hard, because it just shows how isolated she felt and how lonely she felt.
In an op-ed this week in The Post, novelist Alafair Burke added another dimension to this disturbing dynamic. “Because people in power see us as either model minorities or the permanent foreign, subservient class,” she wrote, “they assume we won’t make noise, that we won’t fight back and that we have no allies to stand up for us.”
That isn’t a safe assumption anymore. As we saw in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd last year, the gorgeous mosaic that is America took to the streets to protest injustice and inhumanity. The national uproar over the murder of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim, Delania Yaun and Paul Andre Michels is evidence that that spirit endures.
We must not be cowed by the terror unleashed by White men drowning in the deep end of racism, xenophobia and misogyny. We must not be cowed by those who want to change the subject or lay blame elsewhere. And we must not let Asian Americans think for one minute they are alone. We’re in this fight together.
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