From colonialism to Covid: Viet Thanh Nguyen on the rise of anti-Asian violence

Posted by on April 3, 2021 4:00 am
Categories: Global Stories

Anti-Asian racism is on the rise around the world. The Pulitzer-winning author reflects on his own experiences as a Vietnamese American – and the dark history that continues to fuel the current hate

On 16 March eight people were killed in Atlanta, Georgia, by a 21-year-old white man: all but one were women, and six were Asian. The shootings take their place in a much longer story of anti-Asian violence. The Covid pandemic has given us a particular insight into this phenomenon: verbal and physical assaults against Asians have accelerated in the US over the last year, with 3,800 documented incidents involving spitting, knifings, beatings, acid attacks – and murder. The majority of the victims have been women.

Though the Atlanta killings took place in Asian massage parlours, the shooter has said he did not target the women because of their race. Instead, he claimed to be a sex addict bent on “removing temptation”. Regardless of his denial – whether it is a lie or self-deception – it is obvious that he targeted these women because they were Asian. “Racism and sexism intersect,” says Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociology professor. This intersection has been a driving force in western attitudes towards Asia and Asian women, who are routinely hypersexualised and objectified in popular culture.

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