I have been trying to process the murders in Atlanta. I am struggling. Clearly, they represent the nexus of gender, race, ethnic and immigrant hatred. These cannot be untwined. And it is that complicated interplay that makes it so difficult for me.
As a DEI practitioner, I can see how the xenophobia that has been stirred within the past few years is at play. Yet, it is important to say that while the past years have intensified this kind of xenophobic animosity and targeting, none of this is a new experience for Asian Americans. It can be traced back to the earliest times, when the first Chinese immigrants landed on our western shores. The seeds for hateful marginalization and xenophobic representations were planted then, just as they were when the first enslaved Africans landed on our eastern shores.
Hate like this is not new. Hate like this has deep roots.
I find it interesting, though not surprising, that the primary focus has been on the fact that most of the victims were Asian American. This focus, while painfully relevant, also allows us to avert our eyes from the trauma that women – Asian American women, Black women, Hispanic women, Muslim women, white women, all women – have been subject to. And yet, women are not the focus. No, that would be too big, too real, too terrifying to hold in our quaking hands. It would mean we speak of our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, and ourselves. That is just too terrifying and so we do not speak of it. It is the reason in America we cannot use the word “femicide” to describe the systemic brutalization and murder of women.
No. We cannot go there.
Naming it as xenophobia toward Asian Americans and immigrates makes it somehow a problem that is not as systemic – a problem that is not about the societal us. It makes it a problem we can “otherize,” like the racism directed at Blacks. We can look at statistics and say, while tragic, it potentially impacts this group or that group, but not the societal us. But if we say this heinous crime is about the brutalization of women, we must suddenly come face-to-face with a problem that impacts half of our nation. A problem that is the societal us.
It’s time to name this hatred. It is us.