Eight people were shot and killed at two Atlanta-area massage parlor/spas on Tuesday evening. Of the eight, six were Asian and seven were women. Robert Aaron Long, now in custody, has reportedly confessed to the murders. Yesterday’s tragic mass murder comes amid months of hate crimes and harassment targeting Asian Americans nationwide.
“The violence toward our Asian American community is not new, and the most vulnerable members of our community are most often the victims of the worst forms of racism,” reads a statement from the L.A.-based Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, posted on Instagram in response to the shootings.
The CCED argues against responding to the attacks with increased policing–as New York City has done, deploying counterterrorism and Critical Response Command officers to Asian communities following the slayings–a show the group says is “not about real safety or resources for our communities.” (The LAPD did not respond to a Los Angeles request for information about any specific response plans prior to the publication of this story.)
Instead, the CCED encourages those who feel moved to act following the Atlanta attacks support the work of three organizations: Red Canary Song, Butterfly, and SWAN, all of which specialize in issues relating to Asian and migrant workers in the sex work industry.
Hypersexualization, fetishization, and racism often go hand in hand. I hope people pay attention to this as this story unfolds https://t.co/pyAxTkZqv3
— Antonia Hylton (@ahylton26) March 17, 2021
At this time, the connection between the businesses where the Atlanta shootings took place and sex work is speculative; police have claimed Long may have patronized them due to a possible “sex addiction,” but Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has stated there is no currently known connection between the facilities and any form of sex work, noting that all were “legally operating businesses.” Sex workers are, in general, extremely vulnerable to violence and exploitation.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is also accepting donations to fund their own work combating anti-AAPI hate and violence. The L.A. chapter is part of a national network that organizes bystander trainings for those who want to help protect their neighborhoods and families, and provides free, multilingual legal assistance and victim’s advocacy for vulnerable individuals.
Organizers from the CCED hope the public will consider the violence in the context of trends of displacement, gentrification, and economic vulnerability, as well as racism and misogyny.
“For the last eight years in Los Angeles Chinatown, CCED has witnessed and fought against many forms of violence that have targeted the most vulnerable in our community,” the group wrote in a statement originally published prior to the Atlanta attacks. “We see this moment as a boiling point. The physical assault of our elders comes after a painful year of simmering anti-Chinese rhetoric, xenophobia, right-wing extremism–and also, years of unfettered real estate speculation displacing our working-class communities. These are the systems that endanger our loved ones, that tell the world their lives and dignity aren’t worth protecting. We reject these systems in our communities and in our hearts.”