By Abayomi Azikiwe
March is International Women’s History Month and the threats towards oppressed and racially marginalized people in the United States are intensifying.
An attack by a 21-year-old white male against three Asian-owned spas in Atlanta and Cherokee County in Georgia resulted in the shooting deaths of eight people including six women of Asian descent.
Corporate and government-controlled media outlets in the U.S. have been either hesitant or resistant to labelling these incidents as hate crimes which were racially motivated. Nonetheless, a number of Asian American leaders who have been interviewed on these same television channels and websites are clearly saying that the mass killings in Georgia cannot be viewed in isolation from the escalation of hostilities since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 as well as a centuries-long history of discrimination directed towards Asian people.
The Georgia shootings occurred while there are daily reports of Asians and Asian Americans being routinely insulted and physically assaulted on the streets of numerous municipalities from New York City to the Bay Area of California. Former U.S. President Donald Trump utilized the coronavirus pandemic as a weaponized foreign policy tool to justify his tariffs imposed during the early phase of his administration.
Often referring to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan and China Virus”, the former president, known for his bigoted attitudes, deliberately sought to promote hatred towards Asian people in the U.S. and internationally. These statements compounded the false notions of Asian people not being a part of U.S. society whether they were born inside the country or not.
For several decades since the advent of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in the U.S., the ruling class has attempted to craft an image of Asians as a “model minority” which is not concerned with demonstrations and other political actions related to ending racism and national oppression. They present the false narratives aimed at dividing the non-European sectors of the population. The discriminatory practices and stereotypes which characterize Asians as a “permanent other”, the contradictions between the a-political characterizations of the community and the actual impact of racial violence are being illustrated by the corporate media.
Consequently, the failure of leading corporate news agencies and government outlets to describe the attacks in Georgia as racist hate crimes, speaks to the ongoing efforts by the state and ruling class to deny the basis for unity among people of color communities. For example, when vigilantes and police killed Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Hakim Littleton, among others during 2020, the question of racial motivation was immediately raised from the masses of African Americans and their allies around the U.S. This could not be ignored by the mainstream media as millions poured into the streets across the country and the world in response to racist violence.
According to an article published by The Conversation online news magazine, Prof. Pawan Dhingra, a sociologist and expert in American Studies at Amherst College, wrote on the present situation saying:
“I have researched and taught on Asian America for 20 years, including on the pernicious effects of stereotypes and attacks on individuals. Race can play a role in violence and prejudice, even if the offender does not clearly express a racist intent. Much remains unknown about the attacks in Atlanta, but the man charged with the murders has said he did not have a racial prejudice against people of Asian descent. Rather, he has claimed he has a sexual addiction. But that statement indicates that he assumed these women were prostitutes, whether that is true or not. This assumption, and the resulting violence, is just one of many that Asian Americans have suffered through the years.”
History of Racism Against Asians in the U.S.
There has also been the tendency within the corporate media to frame the attacks and discriminatory behavior towards Asian people within the context of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Yet this notion obscures and distorts the actual social status of Asian people in the U.S.
Since at least the 19th century, Congress and successive administrations have enacted laws designed to restrict the number of Asians allowed into the country. There are numerous incidents of massacres and lynching directed against the Asian communities. In 1942, after a declaration of war against Imperial Japan, 110,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly detained and relocated to internment camps until 1945 when the administration of President Harry Truman utilized two atomic weapons in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The same article mentioned above by Prof. Dhingra notes that the racial and gender characteristics of discrimination and violence date back long before the recent rash of attacks:
“The presupposed connection between Asian women and sex dates back almost 150 years. In 1875, the U.S. Congress passed the Page Act, which effectively barred Chinese women from immigrating, because it was impossible to tell if they were travelling ‘for lewd and immoral purposes,’ including ‘for purposes of prostitution’. The assumption that all Chinese women were of questionable moral character placed the burden on the women themselves to somehow prove they were not prostitutes before being allowed to immigrate.”
Later in 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to deny citizenship to immigrant workers many of whom built large sections of the U.S. railway systems. One source on the rationale behind the legislation emphasizes that:
“The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Many Americans on the West Coast attributed declining wages and economic ills to Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only .002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white ‘racial purity.’”
The degree to which workers in the U.S., presumably white workers, were opposed to Chinese immigration, represented the impact of bourgeois ideology on the European American population groups which are often convinced that any social gains made by oppressed peoples of color calculates as a net loss for their elevated class status. Even today in the 21st century, the hostilities expressed towards the peoples of Asia within various U.S. political circles and the capitalist-oriented media, further reinforce the violence and repression against Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples.
The Foreign Policy Dimension and Specter of Socialism
Underlying a considerable portion of the antagonistic posture towards Asians is the role of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) related to its development over the last 72 years. China is led by the Communist Party which directs large sections of the economy and state structures.
The first diplomatic engagement between the administration of President Joe Biden and the PRC was disastrous, leading to no substantial agreements among the two leading economies in the world. Washington, represented by Secretary of State Antony Blinken took on the historic Cold War posture accusing China of attempting to spread its influence within the Asia-Pacific region. Nonetheless, the U.S. has failed in all of its military adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Palestine, creating the large-scale deaths, injuries and displacements of millions throughout the globe.
Although the State Department accused China of human rights violations against Muslims, the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan, Beijing responded by pointing to the racial oppression which remains pervasive in the U.S. Ironically, these remarks by the Biden administration came during the same week as the mass shooting of eight people in Georgia, six of whom were of Asian descent.
U.S. imperialist ambitions inherently clash with the aspirations of socialist countries and the national liberation movements. Consequently, people in the U.S. must turn away from national chauvinism and racism which guides the domestic and foreign policies of the capitalist state and the ruling class.