This piece was originally published in the author’s newsletter – Classtime. You can subscribe here.
Last night, Robert Aaron Long went on a killing spree at Atlanta-area massage parlors, killing 8 people in his wake. Six of the victims were Asian and two were white people who were around the businesses at the time.
The police have taken Long’s statement, where he maintains that these acts were not racially motivated, but were related to his supposed sex addiction.
So, he makes the Robin DiAngelo sniff test. He didn’t hate these people because they were Asian. He hated them because he assumed they were all sex workers. However…
Who works at Asian massage parlors?
By targeting Asian massage parlors, Long was targeting Asian people. It’s something no one wants to talk about, but we all know it’s true. These businesses, which are often fronts for the sex trade, employ Asian people almost exclusively. You cannot separate the two into two issues and only tackle the one that’s most convenient.
There is a moral panic around talking about sex worker issues as labor issues. The sex panic, employed by leaders on the left and right, obscure the bottom line on sex work: it’s work. 8 people left their houses and went to work Tuesday and did not come home. Their workplaces were unsafe and that is largely because they likely work in an underground economy that forces them to not fully engage with society.
Sex workers have to live a life that is under constant surveillance, and for that, they often have to keep their work private, along with the host of labor issues that come along with it. There should have been no reason that an armed stranger could murder these people at work in cold blood, in some cases in broad daylight.
Atlanta has responded with increased police presence, which has never been a good thing for sex workers.
Sex workers, as well as those perceived to be engaged in sex work based on gender or sexual non-conformity, are raped and sexually harassed and abused by law enforcement officers with alarming frequency – and this takes place across the country.
- A 2002 study found that 30% of exotic dancers and 24 % of street-based sex workers who had been raped identified a police officer as the rapist. Approximately 20 % of other acts of sexual violence reported by study participants were committed by the police.
- According to two studies by the Sex Workers’ Project of the Urban Justice Center in New York City, up to 17% of sex workers interviewed reported sexual harassment and abuse, including rape, by police.
- Sex workers across the country report being forced to strip or engage in other sexual conduct while in police detention.
Extortion of sexual acts in exchange for avoiding arrest or further violence, public strip searches, physical violence, as well as overtly sexist homophobic, racist and transphobic verbal abuse of sex workers by police officers is an all too common experience for indoor and street-based sex workers.
The situation in Atlanta will not improve for the massage parlor workers, who will now be surveilled and policed at a higher rate. Like I stated earlier, I am not saying that these workers were indeed all sex workers, but that was Long’s perception and motivation and this part of the discussion has already become the elephant in the room.
Intersectionality means we look at the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
So how can we say this killing spree has NOTHING to do with race, as the targets were part of a racialized work force?
For the past two years, blaming “The Chinese” (which is never clear what’s meant there, the Chinese government or evil yellow men in a lab) have been blamed for the COVID-19 virus, from both the Democrats and the Republicans.
President Trump called it the “Chinese Virus” and candidate Biden’s response was to fan the flames of anti-Chinese fear even further.
Donald Trump left our country unprepared and unprotected for the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetime — and now we’re paying the price. pic.twitter.com/aCxcqQqUqw
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 18, 2020
There have been about 4,000 attacks on Asian Americans in the past year. There’s no way to prove a direct link between the hate speech from both Biden and Trump in the past year and this violence, but anyone with half a brain can see that if both liberals and conservatives are pushing a message, that message will leak into people’s brains.
I can’t help but compare this to January 6th where a group of weekend warrior chuds stormed U.S. Congress. Six people died in its wake. We had Congressional hearings. A president was impeached.
Will Joe Biden have hearings against his anti-Asian attack ads last fall? 4,000 people have been impacted, but none of them were members of Congress.
Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?