I sense we’re about to have a National Conversation over whether a lunatic who resents women of Asian ancestry because he feels “addicted” to them sexually is properly described as “racist” or not.
Eight people were murdered last night at three different massage parlors in and around Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian and two were white, according to the NYT. Seven of the eight were women. The bizarre pattern of the targets raised an ominous possibility: Were the businesses targeted because of the race of the people who worked there? A study released just yesterday found thousands of incidents of verbal and physical abuse aimed at people of Asian descent in the U.S. since the emergence of the coronavirus, a.k.a. “the China virus” to some, last March:
The report by Stop AAPI Hate documents 3,795 racially motivated attacks against Asian Americans from March to February, noting that the number is likely a fraction of the attacks that occurred, because many were not reported to the group…
About 68% of the anti-Asian attacks documented in the study were verbal harassment, 21% were shunning and 11% were physical assaults.
About 4 in 10 Asian Americans said people have acted uncomfortable around them because of their race since the pandemic started, and 31% said they have been subjected to racial slurs or jokes, according to a Pew Research Center study.
An analysis of police statistics published last week found a 150 percent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes nationally since 2020, mostly concentrated in New York and L.A. It’s concerning enough that Biden made a point of highlighting and condemning the rash of abuse in his COVID speech last week. Had the Atlanta killer targeted the massage parlors because he blamed Asian people as a group for COVID, making this instantly the most notorious hate crime of the pandemic?
The early evidence is that … he did not, say Atlanta cops:
At a news conference, a law enforcement official says early indications are that Atlanta-area mass shooter Robert Aaron Long may have been motivated by issues stemming from "sexual addiction," not racism — but he cautions that the investigation is in an early stage pic.twitter.com/jCyDGyZxQ7
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 17, 2021
Another officer was more explicit:
Cherokee County, GA Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jay Baker says Atlanta shooting suspect claims attacks were “not racially motivated.”
Baker says: “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction … it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” pic.twitter.com/YVezX4Mael
— The Recount (@therecount) March 17, 2021
A police statement added this:
New: Cherokee Co. Sherrif’s Department out with a statement. They say they interviewed the alleged shooter in Atlanta last night and he said it wasn’t about race…it was about his blaming women at these parlors for his addiction to sex. pic.twitter.com/lF766mj2IT
— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) March 17, 2021
There’s no reason to take a killer’s initial statements to police at face value so we’ll see what else the shooter has to say, assuming he’s willing to keep talking. But some are eager enough to fold the episode into the category of “COVID-related hate crimes” that hoaxes feeding that perception are already circulating online:
PSA: This screenshot of a supposed post by the suspected Atlanta shooter is spreading on social media but it is a hoax. If you look closely at the positioning of the user pic and the Reactions, you'll see the graphics are misaligned. This is manipulated media. (H/T @btdecker) pic.twitter.com/Tb7vzqyEwG
— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) March 17, 2021
Georgia’s hate-crime statute allows for enhanced penalties in cases where the victim was targeted due to race — or sex. The latter should be relatively easy to prove based on the killer’s statements already, one would think, although the fact that two of his victims were men might complicate it. As for showing a racial motive, I wonder if it’ll depend on whether he confesses to resenting Asian women specifically or if he resented being drawn to sex at massage parlors generally, whether or not they happened to be staffed by Asian women. He’s going away for a long time regardless.
I’ll leave you with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms citing evidence that the suspect was en route to Florida to keep killing. Details of that are sparse right now but Atlanta PD believes he was planning to target “some type of porn industry.”
Atlanta Mayor @KeishaBottoms on the massage parlor murders: “The suspect was on his way to Florida … perhaps to carry out additional shootings … this could have been significantly worse.” pic.twitter.com/NDnx6C53XR
— The Recount (@therecount) March 17, 2021