Anti-Asian Hate Crimes are a U.S. Tradition

On March 16th, a terrorist murdered 8 people, including 6 Asian women, at different Asian-American-owned massage businesses in the Atlanta area. The suspect, Robert Long, said that he targeted these businesses (which he frequented) as a way to cope with his “sexual addiction.” But these murders came during a period of rising attacks targeting Asian-Americans across the country. These attacks are a result of intense and widespread hatred against women and Asian people.

Of course, according a Georgia sheriff, this attack wasn’t born out of hatred but rather Long having a “very bad day.” It’s not surprising that the sheriff, Jay Baker, would react sympathetically towards Long. After all, Baker had posted on his Facebook page an ad promoting shirts that blamed the pandemic on China.

What are the roots of this anti-Asian hatred? Trump’s talk of the “China virus” and imperialist swagger towards China certainly contributed to a climate of fear and xenophobia against Asian people. And Biden, while he hasn’t called COVID-19 the “China virus,” has been more than happy to continue the aggressive attitude towards China.

In fact, there is a long history of racist mass violence against Asian people in the U.S. The first Chinese migrants to the U.S. in the 1850s were attacked by white mobs, displacing about 300 settlements. In 1871, white rioters killed ten percent of the Chinese people in Los Angeles. In 1882, Congress passed a law banning Chinese workers from immigrating for ten years. In 1885, white mobs in Wyoming killed 28 Chinese coal miners. And this was just the beginning. During World War II, the U.S. government forced almost all U.S. citizens of Japanese descent—more than 120,000 women, children, and men into concentration camps.

The bosses and their politicians have always promoted racial and ethnic divisions among working people—the better to keep us from organizing against our exploiters. Today’s anti-Asian racism is a continuation of this horrific institution in the U.S.