ORLANDO, Fla. — Police in Atlanta say they’re still trying to determine the exact motive behind the actions of a man accused of killing eight people in a shooting spree Tuesday.
The shooter told investigators he was not targeting Asians, but claimed to be a sex addict who was trying to eliminate “temptation.”
However, many Asian-Americans now say that sexism is an element of anti-Asian racism.
Danny Chen is a Taiwanese-American from Orlando who says he’s seen these dynamics play out in his own family.
Only after Chen’s grandmother died did his father open up to the family about her painful past in Taiwan as one of 10 kids.
“She was the one daughter that their parents decided to sort of sell into another family in order to have money for her father’s medical bills,” Chen explains.
Her new family raised her until she was taken in by a married man, with whom she had three children. When that man died, Chen says his family rejected his grandmother and the children.
“My grandmother had to take her three kids and figure out life on her own,” Chen says. “She was uneducated; she was illiterate, so there’s only so much she could do right?”
Chen says his grandmother did what she had to do to make sure her children were fed.
“She sold the only thing she had, which is her body, and she worked in a massage parlor.”
Chen says it’s an industry deeply rooted in racism.
“Through atrocities like colonialism, through war time, military brothels, and things like that, there has been a process in which Asian women in particular have been sort of sexualized as these exotic prizes for western men to conquest.”
Investigators in Atlanta haven’t said whether any of their victims participated in sex work. Advocates have suggested the shooter might have assumed so because of the very history Chen describes.
“When you have a guy that comes into three separate Asian-owned establishments and killed eight people- with the majority of them being Asian women- and say that this is not racially-charged...it doesn’t tell the whole story,” Chen says. “They don’t have to actually be in separate buckets. These things can be working in tandem with each other.”
Chen says he ultimately hopes to see Asian-Americans valued and recognized as equals in the United States.
“I think I’m driving people into the deeper parts of our stories, and understanding how it works.”
Central Florida’s local Asian-American and Pacific Islander community has organized a vigil to honor the Atlanta shooting victims and victims of anti-Asian hate crimes.
It’s scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at UCF’s Millican hall.