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Processing the Atlanta Shooting as Someone Who's Been Fetishized

Last Tuesday evening, a 21-year-old man went into three different spas in the Atlanta area and took the lives of eight people. Of those eight people, six of them were women of Asian descent.

The shooter admitted that he did commit the murders and directly told the police that he has a “sexual addiction” and committed these murders to “eliminate temptation.” But despite those statements, the acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department said that it was too early in the investigation to determine if the horrific act is considered a racial hate crime.

As an Asian-American, this past year has been a very scary time. In the last year there have been 3,800 hate crimes against the Asian community that have been reported and processed, and countless that have fallen through the cracks. And in the case of this particular crime, it was not motivated by COVID-19 microaggression, but stemmed from a sexual nature. Being oversexualized and fetishized due to race is something that people of Asian descent can all relate to and have most likely experienced, often starting at a young age. The nature of this crime has brought up an entire whirlwind of feelings and emotions that I cannot even begin to put into words, ranging from fear to anger to intense sadness.

My personal experience started in elementary school and really escalated in middle school. I was regularly targeted by my peers because of the normalization of seeing folks of Asian descent as “exotic” or “tempting.” I’ve had awful things said to me, been followed home, been stalled and even had people behave towards me in aggressive ways when I said no to their advances because “people like me should be easy,” that I should feel flattered that someone wants to be with me in an intimate way, that I should just “give it up” and so much more. I would have people tell me that they wanted to “check” being with an Asian off their bucket list. Throughout all of those awful interactions I was staying to myself and just minding my own business. The intense fetishization and widespread sexual misinterpretations of the Asian community has been seen as normalized. And that’s something that needs to change.

Racism against the Asian community is often ignored and forgotten in activism, we’re expected to just deal with it. What people often seem to forget is that their words, actions and intentions do hurt us, they do scare us, and racially motivated violence against the Asian community really does exist.

Hyun Jung Grant, Xiaojie Tan, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Michels, Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park and Daoyou Feng are the people who have been publicly identified. Let’s honor them by seeing each other as equal humans, not as racially profiled objects.

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash