On Wednesday, the bloodshed in Atlanta seemed to fit seamlessly into the list of rampages and mass murders in the United States, which was getting longer every day. One of more than 100 crimes of this type since the beginning of the year, with more than 110 dead. But three days later this crime is perceived as a national tragedy. And that has not only to do with the fact that it was the worst killing spree of this young year, with eight deaths. What sets this act apart from the many others is the fact that the alleged shooter was a white man, and six of the eight victims were women of Asian background.
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden had the flags hoisted at half-mast on federal buildings across the country by Monday. As a “sign of respect for the victims of this senseless act of violence,” Biden said in writing. He changed his travel plans for this Friday. Instead of promoting his $ 1.9 trillion corona aid package with Vice President Kamala Harris in Georgia, they met with representatives of the American-Asian community. “We have to change our hearts. Hate cannot have a safe haven in America. It has to stop,” said Biden after the meeting. He called for discrimination and racism not to be left unchallenged. “Because our silence makes us accomplices. We mustn’t be accomplices.” Racism is an “ugly poison” that has been persecuting the United States for too long.
The alleged perpetrator is 21-year-old Robert L. from Woodstock, a half-hour drive from Atlanta. He is said to have entered three so-called “spas” one after the other in Atlanta and the surrounding area early Tuesday evening. These are brothels declared as massage parlors. In Georgia these are tolerated because the core offer, the massage, is legal. In the brothels affected, mainly women of Asian origin offer their services.
So far, one can only speculate about the suspect’s motives. The police had initially reported the act as an “ongoing robbery”. But it is arguably more complicated. According to his own statements and the statements of various witnesses, L. is said to suffer from a sex addiction in connection with severe guilt complexes. He is described as a highly distraught man who reacted to masturbation and his own brothel visits with excessive self-punishment fantasies. “This is the type of man who hates himself when he masturbates who thinks it’s pathological,” said a former roommate of him. On the other hand, he also hates the sex industry. “He felt taken advantage of, abused by her.”
Anxiety in the American-Asian community
In the political arena, the act is primarily debated as a possibly racially motivated act against Asian-American citizens. Fueled not least by Jay Baker, the now suspended spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. In a first public statement on Wednesday, he said that he was not assuming a racist motive. L. was rather “pretty much at the end” because of his addiction to sex. Baker: “Yesterday was a really bad day for him.” A sentence that resonated in the ears of many Americans of Asian origin, as if their lives didn’t count.
Shortly afterwards, an irritating Facebook post from the police officer became public. In it, Baker advertises T-shirts on which the coronavirus is described as “imported from China”. “I love my shirt,” he wrote. What caused new outrage.
Such statements get to the heart of the fear that has raged in the US-Asian community since the pandemic began. It also resulted in members of this group demonstrating in Atlanta, Washington and New York after the crime. The former US President Donald Trump had told his supporters to the last that the corona virus was a “China virus”, a “Wuhan virus” or simply a “Kung-Flu”flu is the English word for flu). As if the virus had a nationality.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki took care not to accuse the suspect of any motive whatsoever on Thursday. But she said there was “no doubt” that Trump’s rhetoric “has increased the threat to Asian Americans.”
This is also shown by a study by California State University, San Bernardino. In New York City, for example, a city with a large Asian population, there were at least 28 racially motivated acts against people of Asian origin in the past year. There were three cases in 2019. Across the US, their number has increased by 150 percent.
Helen Kim Ho, founder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, is not surprised by the numbers. “We are not really considered Americans, we remain foreigners,” she said Washington Post. In addition, there is an oversexualized conception of Asian women in society. “All of that must have played a role in this man’s mind.” The suspect must therefore not have been aware of the racist motive. It might still play a role.