The pro wrestling fan in me knows March 16th as 3:16 Day to celebrate pro wrestling legend Stone Cold Steve Austin. Maybe I drink an IPA, rock my Austin 3:16 T-shirt, and watch some of his classic matches, moments,
March 16th of this year marks the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta Spa shootings. As a member of the East Asian community, this shook me, and I guess was a breaking point of how my identity was gentrified to accommodate white people. I’ve had to battle a constant identity crisis since I was a kid growing up in a predominantly white area (sundown town white). Even into my adult life, constantly code switching and developing various kinds of imposter syndrome has taken a toll on my own mental health on top of my physical health issues.
As I reflect on what happened a year ago, I am reminded of all the internalized otherness I’ve had to dealt with — and how uncomfortable I had to be — to make white folks comfortable. I compromised my identity and integrity only to be tokenized. More importantly, the response after the Atlanta Spa shootings (and more so the lack thereof), intentional ignorance, and white savior bullshit I had to deal with was infuriating and painful.
For example, I can count on one hand on how many people from the many faith communities I was or am currently in reached out to see how I was doing. I had to go to Clubhouse to meet other East Asians who had the same thing happen to them in order to find a faith community for support.
A white, male pastor told me the shooting wasn’t a hate crime or racially motivated, further perpetuating the ‘bad day’ bullshit the white police chief used. The pastor’s response was to victim blame, and in essence was hella condescending.
A friend of mine who is white brought attention to the shootings by taking a moment to honor the victims after her sermon the Sunday after it happened, only to receive negative criticism from members of her congregation for doing so.
I’ve been told by white/passing folks not to take it so hard because the victims “aren’t related to you.” One even said, “It’s not like they’re Chinese; they were Korean.”
A faith-based organization against human sex trafficking I used to work with and support continued to use ‘parlor’ and not ‘spa’ repeatedly in their social media posts after being called out by Asian women on how triggering that word is. Those posts were amended 32 hours later and have since been deleted. Just so you know, the word ‘parlor’ when it comes to Asian massage is very sexualized and implies human trafficking and prostitution. These specific spas in Atlanta, along with many Asian spas, are not like that. Many of the spas that do offer ‘full service’ are actually safe places for workers (this Vice article does a decent job of explaining).
I actually had a white man who I don’t know, with a performative black square in his socials, defend the shooter, trying to whitesplain and use Christianese to say how it wasn’t a hate crime. When I called out his performative ‘allyship’ and asked him to do his damn research, he told me to “wait until we white people become the minority and we rise up.”
Also, someone I went to church with in the past now wants to fight me because he feels “attacked” when I continually call out white supremacy, and because I refuse to amplify the attacks on Asian women and elders by Black and Brown people. Since that is all the white-controlled media amplifies, I will not use what little influence I have as a continuance of the tensions between Asian and Black and Brown communities (created in part by the model minority myth). Some universities and school districts started to lump us in with white students in their data, to do what I, as an Asian American, see as helping out white folk and further pitting us against the Black and Brown communities.
Honestly, a lot of these reactions show just how invisible the east Asian community is, and how our proximity to whiteness is an inconvenience for white people — especially when one of theirs goes on a targeted rampage. When a Chinese grandma got set on fire in New York and the NYPD didn’t do shit, we protested in front of the specific precinct in Manhattan. Rapper China Mac got on video numerous officers laughing, not taking it seriously (Zuck had that video taken down and suspended China Mac’s account after that).
The tragedy in Atlanta, along with all the other shit that has recently happened to Asian women, has also exacerbated another problem: the fetishization of Asian women. As someone who has an older sister and more female cousins than male, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been asked, mostly by white men, “Is your sister/cousin hot?” The fact that in the back of mind I have to constantly worry about my elderly mom taking a walk in the park because some racist ass hat would harm her is terrifying. I hate the fact that all of my Asian female friends feel scared to go out to the store just to get groceries, or have to deal with ‘micro’ aggressions in the workplace, the gym — everywhere they go.
Asian men: we need to be better advocates for the women of our community, plain and simple. Be more active in your community, use whatever resources you have, be present, show that you truly care about the safety of the women of your community. Non-Asian folks (especially white people): be supportive by addressing your biases, don’t center talks about race around you and whiteness, and for once just STFU and listen. Today would be a great day to check in with your female friends who are Asian, as this horrific tragedy hit them hardest.
It was a white racist man who targeted Asian massage spas — not someone just having a bad day. he visited those spas for a reason. He fetishized the Asians who worked there. Fetishizing is objectifying, and objectifying is hate. If you have trouble trying to comprehend how fetishization is hate, do your damn research on it and educate yourself on the stereotype content model (SCM), since it should help with connecting those dots.
What the Atlanta shooter did was not because of a bad day.
Fuck your bad day, and that’s the bottom line… because Stone Cold said so.
ENFP-T, Enneagram 4w5, child of immigrants, Hong Kong Chinese, global communicator, graphic designer, WAZZU alumn, and seminary dropout are a few hats I wear. I’m friendly but not nice, complex yet simplistic, and somewhat socially intimidating at times.
Main image by Camille Brodard on Unsplash