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OPINION: The Atlanta spa shootings targeting Asian-Americans harms all people of color

Wednesday, 14 April 2021 16:16 GMT

No flowers, candles or other memorial tokens remain outside the Gold Spa in Atlanta, four weeks after the deadly shootings in Atlanta and Acworth, Georgia, U.S., April 13, 2021. REUTERS/Bita Honarvar

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

White supremacy harms every person of color, with women suffering even more because of the intersections of racism and sexism

By Sung Yeun Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s ForumMarcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice AgendaLupe M. Rodríguez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice

Asian American women are still reeling following last month's deadly attacks in Georgia. In the days and weeks that followed, the country began a discussion about “racialized misogyny” — after initial confusion about whether the killings were indeed hate crimes.

In fact, there is still debate about whether the killer was motivated by race. As women of color — Asian, Black and Latina — we understand that the killings most certainly were an act of racist misogyny. By his own account, the killer targeted the spas where he knew Asian American women worked.

In other words, he killed six Asian American women whom he targeted because they were Asian American, because they were women, and because of where they worked.

Whether law enforcement deems the killing spree racially motivated or not, it most certainly was a white supremacist act — and that impacts all communities of color. When Dylann Roof targeted a Black church in Charleston, North Carolina and killed nine people, that was white supremacy.

When Patrick Crusius opened fire in a Texas Walmart aiming to “shoot as many Mexicans as possible,” killing 22 people, that was white supremacy. When Robert Aaron Long targeted three Atlanta-area spas, killing eight people, six of who were Asian American women, that, too, was white supremacy.

Women of color, too often, suffer from a multi-edged blade of white male oppression. We know that sexual violence, racism and xenophobia are often intertwined when it comes to violence against women.

The anti-Asian violence that has soared over the past year has disparately impacted women, with more than 68%  of the reported incidents coming from women.

And those are just the reported cases; imagine how many attacks go unreported — especially in immigrant communities where people often are afraid to call the police because they fear deportation.

That fear of deportation, by the way, is also white supremacy at work. By targeting immigrant communities, our government — which was built on a foundation of white supremacy — ensures that the U.S. can profit from the labor of immigrants.

We have a pool of low-paid workers — who often toil in horrible working conditions for subminimum wages and without any benefits — which allows U.S. companies to rake in big profits. Many of these workers are women and many of them endure unchecked sexual harassment and assault at work so they can keep their jobs. And, yes, that’s white supremacy.

Clearly, white supremacy is not a Black and white issue; it undercuts and harms every person of color — with women suffering even more because of the intersections of racism and sexism. That’s why we saw people of color standing in solidarity with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities immediately after the Atlanta-area killing spree.

We didn’t need to know why those women were killed because we both understand and know the terror and pain that Asian people are feeling as a result of the attack. Black, Latinx and other people of color know because we have been through it — and continue to experience the pain and terror.

Of course, all people of color must be unified in our demand to dismantle white supremacy and the systems and structures that support it. And white people, especially white women, need to listen to us, hear us and join us in that demand.

Until white people acknowledge that white supremacy is the foundation upon which this country was built, upon which their lives have thrived, we will never make real and lasting progress. We need to scrap that foundation and replace it if we truly want equity.

Are we all ready to do that?