Asian American and Pacific Islander communities deserve coverage before tragedy strikes

Asian American and Pacific Islander communities deserve coverage before tragedy strikes

Our hearts go out today to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Robert Aaron Long, a white man, killed eight women and injured several others at three businesses in suburban Atlanta in an anti-Asian motivated murder spree.

According to the Wall Street Journal the murders were owing to a sex addiction. I disagree.

Long’s actions were motivated by racism and misogyny. 

White men feeling they have the right to kill women of color because of a “sex addiction” and the Wall Street Journal legitimizing that idea in print is anti-Asian and misogynist.

Long’s actions are part of the ongoing stochastic terrorism that has enveloped the U.S. since the Trump presidency. 

Stochastic terrorism is the incitement of violence towards a group by a person in power using public demonization. Often media is employed to champion these fabrications that lead to anger with the final goal of physical violence. In the United States, white supremacy is the weapon.

The result is violence that appears random, but nothing is arbitrary about stochastic terrorism. 

Violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander women has long been institutionally supported, domestically and internationally, and in some dark corners encouraged.

It is about remembering our collective histories and the over 500 years of colonization and imperialism that have oppressed transnational and women of color and claimed their bodies for control and profit.

Barbara Ramos, AF3IRM 

Anti-Asian violence has a long history in the United States. One of this nation’s bloodiest chapters was the Chinese massacre of 1871 that left 500 Chinese Americans dead in Los Angeles. The Page Act of 1875  banned Chinese women from immigrating to the United States.  In 1882 President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. The law prohibited the immigration of all Chinese laborers. The Chinese Exclusion Act remains the only law to have been implemented in the U.S., to prevent all members of a specific ethnic or national group from immigrating. The Chinese Exclusion Act was not fully lifted until 1965 when the Civil Rights Movement attacked it for being discriminatory. February 19, 1942  President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This order incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.  In 2019 the always simmering anti-Asian sentiment was further fueled and enflamed by ex-president Trump’s vicious and continuous rhetoric against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current media’s bystander role in anti-Asian violence

According to a 2019 ANSE study, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), founded in 1868, the paper of record for Metro Atlanta and the “new” South has no people of color on its salaried staff. 

In the past year, when AJC reported on the disparaging anti-Asian description manner in which high-ranking politicians described COVID-19, it was very “objective” and level-headed. There was no, as they call it, “editorializing.” AJC was very clear. It reported others said it was wrong, but the paper of record did not say it was wrong. 

That would not have been objective.

Last week AJC published a story on sex workers. It highlighted Asian and Latina immigrants. It wasn’t a forgiving portrayal. 

Media can amplify biases and minimize humanity. This allows violent racists to easily and carelessly murder, rape, and maim.

Sex worker’s rights

Asian immigrant women who work in the sex industry, have long been tacitly accepted. Massage parlors that are fronts for sex work are accepted, until there is a scandal or someone wants to make a name for themselves as a crusader. Sex work is work and should be decriminalized. It is one of the world’s most dangerous professions in part owing to its illegal status in much of the world. Hollywood also has blood on its hands. Its cruel and harmful depictions of Asian American and Pacific Islander women in one dimensional objectifying roles has long dehumanized the entire community. Caricatures can kill.

Journalism as a tool for justice

Journalism is one of the most powerful tools for justice and oppression. It remains primarily white and majority men, especially in leadership positions, even in the most progressive newsrooms at its detriment.

PBS Newshour is 83 percent white. 

News coverage matters. It matters if the only time you get mentioned is when the president of the United States mocks you or when you get murdered. Fair, just, and balanced community coverage MUST start before people die.

Editorial journalism can no longer afford to continue to be the platform for angry white men — and their wives and daughters. The public has the right to hear “all responsible viewpoints on particular issues.” A non or indifferent response to hate is textbook Hannah Arendt “Banality of Evil.”

It is culpable.

As culpable as the witnesses who did not intervene in the Cheryl Ann Araujo case.

It is not objective to “objectively” platform hate or rhetoric that is known to be stochastic terrorism.

Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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