Last week’s killing spree that included six Asian victims has sparked a conversation about racially motivated crimes and what to do about them.
It’s a complicated question—one that attempts to untangle all of the various threads that blend together to form hateful actions. I don’t see how you can tackle it without addressing the “othering” of ethnic and racial communities, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, online hate speech, economic anxiety, inadequate mental health services, gun control and I’m sure a whole host of other factors I’m not even thinking about here.
You can’t track back through the actions of the Atlanta shooter without talking about not only all the factors that twist someone’s moral compass so badly, why he targeted this particular group, but also the ease at which he was able to act on his impulses so easily by purchasing a gun the same day as the shootings.
At the moment, we’re scrutinizing our leadership in New York—both through the electoral process as we elect a Mayor, but also through an oversight process given the seemingly endless stream of bad news coming out about Andrew Cuomo, his actions towards women, his bullying of other politicians and his coverup of missteps in the handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.
All of the candidates in the Mayor’s race have made statements in solidarity with the Asian community and against hate. They’ve shown up at the vigils and the marches, but, to be honest, I find most of it very performative. Solidarity is important, don’t get me wrong, but these are complex problems that require nuanced and thoughtful solutions—things I have yet to see from two of the candidates in particular.
When the nation was rocked by synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn Borough President called for all off-duty police officers to carry weapons to houses of worship.
I understand why someone might think this would be a good idea. The “good guy with a gun” theory sounds nice, except that in practice, it doesn’t work out.
The National Bureau of Economic Research states that allowing citizens to carry handguns seems to” increase violent crime 13 to 15 percent by the 10th year” of the laws being enacted in the state. Not only that, active shooters are more often brought down by unarmed people than those with guns. In a 2014 report, the FBI examined 160 active shooter incidents that took place between 2000 and 2013.
Five times, armed individuals who were not police exchanged gunfire with the shooter, leading to either the shooter being killed, wounded or taking his own life.
However, 21 of the 160 incidents ended after unarmed citizens restrained the shooter.
That doesn’t stop Eric Adams from suggesting repeatedly that guns are the answer. In fact, he says that, if elected Mayor, he would dismiss his security detail and just carry all the time.
What people like Eric Adams fail to realize is that “a gun is the answer” is actually the same thinking, or lack thereof, that people like the Atlanta shooter is doing. Whatever his reasons might be—his objectification of women, and fetishization of Asian women in particular, his mangled relationship to sex—instead of seeking out mental and emotional help, or somehow having a system in which it is made so accessible that he at least runs into it at some point, he sought out a gun as the solution to his issues.
What makes Eric Adam’s relationship to guns as the solution any different?
Because he’s a good guy?
He’s also a guy that leans into “otherization”—the idea that some people, through their actions, either belong here or they don’t.
At a rally, he was discussing gentrification when he said, “Go back to Iowa, you go back to Ohio. New York City belongs to the people that were here and made New York City what it is.”
When a Vancouver woman was attacked a year ago, she was told, “Go back to China.”
Sorry, but I find it disingenuous when a guy who has ever uttered the words, “Go back to…” and thinks a gun is the answer to all problems stands in solidarity with the Asian community after what they’ve been through.
In a perhaps less obvious and more nuanced way, I don’t think Andrew Yang has been doing racial harmony any favors lately either. It feels like week in and week out, he find another way to be tone-deaf on these issues.
That’s not new.
In interviews with former employees of his at Venture for America, the NY Times found that “he once offhandedly remarked that the nonprofit fellowship program, Venture for America, might simply not be the best fit for black applicants“.
He’s also been really cavalier about his use of Asian stereotypes.
During the second Presidential Debate, he remarked that “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”
Do we think that kind of thing is helpful—to be telling people across the country that a particular ethnic group of people is the opposite of this cult-like political figure who is known for inciting people toward violence?
This seems to be a serious blind spot for him. Listen to his reaction on the FAQ podcast when he’s asked about the “Math” stereotype and what it means for kids of color in the classroom—those who get assumed to be not as academically inclined as their Asian counterparts. It’s obviously a topic he hadn’t thought about a lot before—and admittedly not one I picked up on when I first heard the slogan either. Instead of admitting that he has much more to learn on the effects of “model minority” stereotypes, which we all do, he fumbles through an excuse that its a stereotype he was actually trying to poke fun of.
He’s also gone out and said that Asians can help racism by:
“…Show[ing] our American-ness in ways we never have before. We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.”
Um, yeah I don’t think the issue for these Asian women was that they didn’t have American flag pins. No one needs to “prove” their “American-ness” in the city or country I want to live in. This is exactly the kind of otherization that isn’t helpful—that you’re not “one of us” unless you live or act a certain way.
This is exactly what fuels hate.
New York City is home to hundreds of languages spoken by people from a wider variety of countries than probably any single place on the planet. I wouldn’t assume to be as steeped in all of the various ethnic issues and conflicts around the world that wind up becoming New York City voter issues as I need to be—but then again, I’m not running for Mayor.
What I do want from my leaders is a genuine attempt at listening, trying to understand complex problems and an admission that if you don’t know enough about something, maybe you should study up before you way in, or perhaps just not take up the air about the issue at all.
What people shouldn’t want is a Mayor stumbling clumsily around BDS issues between Arab and Israeli communities in an effort to garner votes any more than Asian communities want more police presence.
In an open letter decrying the Asian Hate Crime Task Force’s formation, with Andrew Yang promised to fully fund, the Asian American Feminist Collective wrote, “Massage-parlor workers, street vendors, and working-class Asian people are most vulnerable to racist violence, and those are also the same people that the police arrest, rough up, detain, and report to immigration detention.”
More cops, more guns, more othering.
I don’t care if it comes with good intentions, or what the ethnicity is of the people it comes from. These are things that aren’t going to get at the root of the issues that marginalized communities are dealing with.
I don’t have all the answers but this is what I learn when I listen—and I don’t think Eric Adams and Andrew Yang are doing nearly enough listening.
For me, their actions and rhetoric come uncomfortably close to what’s actually causing a lot of the problem and I can’t support their run for office because of that.