We are deeply saddened and angered by the loss of eight lives on March 16, 2021, extinguished by a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, that targeted Asian women massage workers.
We first and foremost want to express solidarity and support for the families and friends of these eight victims and for those who relied on them, loved them, and will grieve them. We recognize and acknowledge the pain, anger and fear of Asians and Asian Americans produced by xenophobia, racism, and racist misogyny.
This tragedy exemplifies the intensification anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year, fueled by political and religious leaders and often minimized in — or even ignored by — the media. A 21-year-old White man targeted Asian massage parlors, and justified his actions by explaining that he needed to eliminate the temptation of women he perceived to be sex workers. The conflation of Asian massage parlors with prostitution rings exhibits anti-Asian racism based on a long history of the exoticization of Asian women, rooted in European colonialism and the expansion of the US empire. These killings highlight the need to combat both racist misogyny and the vilification of sex workers.
We endorse the strong solidarity statement from Duke’s Asian American and Diasporic Studies Program and stand with our Asian and Pacific Islander colleagues and students in condemning these murders. And we stand with these same colleagues and students in anger toward the anti-Asian racism, violent misogyny, and the shaming of sex work that our society has fostered.
We pledge to engage in programming over the next year to address the hatred, misogyny, and shame directed toward Asian sex workers. We also want to draw attention to an important event hosted by The University of Michigan’s Asian Languages and Literatures Program at 11:30 EST on Friday, March 26: “Contextualizing Violence Against Asians and Asian Americans Within the History of US Relational Racism.” Finally, we want to amplify the important activist work being done in several spaces:
• The Asian American Feminist Collective offers educational resources and links to organizations supporting Asian Americans.
• Axis Lab in Chicago put out an excellent list of readings and resources on the history of anti-Asian racism.
• The Asian Mental Health Collective has created a directory of resources and hotlines.
• Butterfly advocates for Asian and Migrant sex workers.
• The Center for Pan Asian Community Servicespromotes self-sufficiency and equity through comprehensive health and social services, capacity building, and advocacy.
• Red Canary Song is a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers organizing transnationally.
• SWAN Vancouver provides support and advocacy for im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work.