Anti-Asian Violence: Myth and Reality
Is "white supremacy" really the culprit?
The year 2021 has seen a slew of articles in the leftist press condemning the perception that most of the violence against Asian people is committed by people of color. This message is still being hammered into readers’ heads with the thunderous intensity of Niagara Falls. A good number of these articles, while reluctantly conceding that people of color are statistically shown to be the main perpetuators of this kind of violence, go on to explain why this is the case.
It all boils down to… white supremacy.
Yes, white supremacy has become the pop-up explanation for every ill in society, so much so that you can be sure that at this moment there’s a university scholar somewhere writing a thesis about how white supremacy is the root cause of black-on-black urban violence.
While it is mostly radical leftist publications that are naming white supremacy as the root cause of anti-Asian violence, the mainstream news media has developed its own trope: remain silent when it comes to reporting the race of the perpetrator.
The catalyst for these multiple (anti-Asian) news stories was Robert Aaron Long of Canton, Georgia, accused of murdering eight people, six of whom happened to be Asian American women who worked at various spas in the Atlanta metro area. Long, who has described himself as a sex addict, told police he began his killing spree to rid himself of sexual temptation, and that the killings had nothing to do with hating Asians.
The fact that Long has not been charged with committing a hate crime is telling, suggesting that authorities believe that Long’s crime did in fact spring from the depths of psychosis, and not from an ideological hatred of Asians. In their view, the fact that Long’s victims were mostly Asian was incidental and accidental. As a self-realized sex addict, Long would naturally look to his former sexual haunts, spas and massage parlors, to perform his sick exorcism of the demons he says had been plaguing him. After all, the vast majority of spas and massage parlors in metropolitan areas tend to be Asian-run. Every city has its own Chinatown, and every Chinatown (as the stereotype goes) has its spa backrooms where special deals are made between client and masseuse. Long lacked the self-discipline to stop going to these places, so he took the crazy way out: he eliminated the source of his guilt.
Leftwing media latched on to this story because it served woke journalism’s mission: to ramp up the "White Man as Supreme Asian Hater narrative," never mind that the Long case logs in as a super-rare anomaly. As anyone who has ever kept a keen eye on the dating habits of American men realizes, white men tend to marry Asian women, not push them down in subways or throw things at them in the street. If one were to officially charge white men with anything regarding Asian women---and this would only happen in an alternate feminist universe with Andrea Dworkin as the judge and jury---it would be for the “crime” of sexually objectifying and fetishizing them.
Not long after the Atlanta area shooting, there were news reports of old Chinese men being attacked on New York streets, or old Korean women being beaten up on buses. These reports came with op-eds condemning anti-Asian violence, or reports on “Stop the Hate,” “Stop the Violence” demonstrations. As to “who” should stop the violence, well, that remained a mystery. Essentially, the message was as generic as a UN address, directed to all people because all people are potentially guilty of anti-Asian violence--- even your white Mennonite grandmother sitting on her porch in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
But this Orwellian science fiction doesn’t translate to reality at all.
In many of the anti-Asian attacks stories the race of the perpetrator is not reported. With these reports there’s a sense that the reporter or editor in charge went to some length to avoid mentioning this fact, as if a description of the assailant was irrelevant because, you know, we are all potentially guilty of anti-Asian violence.
In rare instances, a photo of the assailant is published, but only because the attack was caught on camera. These photos almost always reveal a person of color. This fact is neither a good nor a bad thing, it’s just the facts, or "reality" as it used to be called. But even these "photo ID" stories identifying the assailant have been called “insufficient and incendiary” when they come under scrutiny by the Left. Some critics also maintain that they are hurtful to the future of Black-Asian relations. The message here is that it’s better not to mention race because the local chapter of BLM might start burning things up again.
NBC News’ headline, “Viral images show people of color as anti-Asian perpetuators. That misses the big picture,” suggests that the big picture has to do with white supremacy. At U.S. News, one headline did a triple woke somersault when it declared, “Anti-Asian Hate Crime Crosses Racial and Ethnic Lines.” Reading further into the piece, the reader discovers how little those lines are crossed when it was reported that of the 20 people arrested in New York City in 2020, only 2 of those 20 people were white, eleven were African American, six white Hispanic and one black Hispanic.
The Washington Examiner had a different slant when it reported that “Notable attacks have occurred in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle,” and then went on to state, “Often the victims are defenseless, the attacks unprovoked, and the culprits not white.”
The normally staid Wall Street Journal made no bones about news media obfuscation when it comes to stories about anti-Asian violence:
Throughout 2020 there was a rise in violence against Asian-Americans, but the race of the perpetrators was typically mentioned only when they were white. Media and other elites obsessively push the narrative that the greatest threat in this country is coming from ‘white supremacists.
This gross oversimplification has dire consequences for the most vulnerable in our society—those living in the poorest neighborhoods—and for the nation as a whole.
Meanwhile, Vox states that there’s no evidence that Black Americans are “predominantly responsible for the rise in attacks on Asian Americans or that they are particularly hostile to Asian Americans relative to the rest of the population.” Going one step further, Vox proclaims with dogmatic Howard Zinn-certainty (pound fist on table, look angry) that the “narrative of Black-Asian hostility is rooted in immigration and economic policies that have historically pitted these communities against one another.”
But if there’s no evidence that black Americans are responsible for the rise in anti-Asian attacks, how then can there be a “record” (narrative) of “Black-Asian hostility?” Where does the myth come from? Harry Potter? E.B. White?
According to Professor Jennifer Ho of the University of Colorado at Boulder, white supremacy is the root of all race-related violence in the United States. Ho states that “Anti-Asian racism has the same source as anti-Black racism: white supremacy. So when a Black person attacks an Asian person, the encounter is fueled perhaps by racism, but very specifically by white supremacy. White supremacy does not require a white person to perpetuate it... The dehumanization of Asian people by U.S. society is driven by white supremacy and not by any Black person who may or may not hate Asians.”
According to Ho, therefore, the white guy who wants to marry an Asian woman is guilty (by the very nature of his being white) of an attack by a black man on an Asian person 100 miles away because the black man has been fueled by the racism directed against him by all the white people he’s encountered since he was born.
Would this kind of logic hold up in a court of law?
When the American Journal of Criminal Justice looked at hate crime statistics from 1992 to 2014, it found that compared to anti-Black and anti-Latino hate crimes, a higher proportion of perpetrators of anti-Asian hate crimes were people of color. US News also reported that, “While historically whites have been responsible for most hate crimes reported to the FBI, the arrest data from New York shines a light on a sensitive topic in the Asian American community — that attacks on Asians are often carried out by people of color."
“Most police departments do not publish this kind of data," US News concluded.
Of course, police departments would probably not publish that kind of data because the last thing any local police department needs is a charge of micro-aggression racism by BLM academics, aka the cheerleading squad of Defund the Police.
What was ridiculously chilling about almost every news report on anti-Asian crime is all the references to Donald Trump calling coronavirus the “China virus” or the “kung fu plague.”
"When you have a former president who stoked the flames of white nationalism by using ethnic slurs to refer to the coronavirus, you're going to incite hate against a vulnerable minority, in this case, Chinese Americans, and by extension, Asian Americans," said one sociology professor at Columbia University. Well, what else would you expect from a university professor whose work environment is essentially a bubble where free thought is not allowed? Trump’s "China Virus" comments not only pointed to the suspicious origins of COVID but have proven more accurate over time, especially considering the recent GOP report pointing to the Wuhan lab as source of the pandemic.
"The recent crime wave against Asians in America's big cities is not the fault of Donald Trump, MAGA activists, conservative talk radio, or white people," Asian-American columnist Michelle Malkin wrote. “It's the fault of the perpetrators and the perpetrators alone — most of whom happen to be thugs 'of color.'"
The Washington Examiner said it best when it stated that an honest conversation about the prevalence of black crime and the existence of racism among nonwhite Americans is long overdue. “The goal is not to vilify an entire race for the crimes of individuals, nor is it to absolve individuals of other races who commit racist acts.”
This means if we can never bring ourselves to face the unpleasant facts about the majority of these attacks, there will never be any kind of reconciliation. As for those who refuse to face those facts, perhaps the first step in a 12-step program might be to stop fixating on superficialities, namely the former president’s use of the term "China Virus.”
The all-too-human truth is that you can call it the "China Virus" and still love your Asian neighbor.
Thom Nickels is a Philadelphia-based journalist/columnist and the 2005 recipient of the AIA Lewis Mumford Award for Architectural Journalism. He is the author of fifteen books, including Literary Philadelphia and From Mother Divine to the Corner Swami: Religious Cults in Philadelphia.