Dear ASA Community:
On March 16, 2021, Robert Aaron Long targeted three Atlanta-area spas and ultimately claimed the lives of eight people: Delania Ashley Yuan, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Paul Andre Michels, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, and Yong Ae Yue. A ninth victim—Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz—is presently in intensive care recovering from significant gunshot wounds. Despite Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jay Baker's repetition of the suspect's claim that the shooting was not racially motivated, while adding the galling characterization that Long was having a “really bad day," the Atlanta shootings represent—to varying degrees and divergent ends—a reckoning with the nation’s past (via a longstanding history of anti-Asian racism) and its present (a spike of anti-Asian violence in the midst of a global pandemic and intensified movement against antiblack police violence).
Despite constant references by an increasing number of elected officials, scholars, activists, celebrities, and pundits to the 150% increase in anti-Asian/Asian American “hate crimes” in 2020, we do not find such statistical references to be either adequate or accurate methods for addressing current conditions. Robert Aaron Young’s actions must be understood as symptomatic of this historical moment and the material relations of violence and power that characterize it. Similarly, violence against sex workers and people of Asian descent should be addressed as part of a totality of state organized, state induced, and/or state sanctioned violence that unevenly targets specific people and places, resulting in asymmetrical casualties. Narratives of the Atlanta shootings as exceptional, individualized reactionary violence—as a “hate crime”—fail to understand the complex, normalized linkages between sex worker criminalization, anti-Asian state rhetoric, antiblack policing, urban gentrification, and accelerating white nationalist mobilizations, among other things. This is where our pedagogical and intellectual labor can and must enrich, challenge and shift public discourse, scholarly analysis, and social movements.
We encourage our colleagues, students, and friends to engage with Asian and Asian American feminist, abolitionist, sex worker justice, and queer centered work against white supremacy and state violence that is in dialog with Black radical, Indigenous anticolonial and decolonial, disability justice, and other communities of scholars, artists, teachers, and practitioners who have transformed the ASA in recent years.
In this spirit, we are writing to invite you (and others you may know beyond the extended ASA community) to contribute to a living, open access collection of critical work on anti-Asian violence. We emphasize abolitionist, feminist, queer, trans, migrant, refugee, disability justice and sex worker justice centered approaches. Included thus far are a modest number of works contributed by the current ASA leadership, including short videos, interviews, articles in popular venues, and scholarly essays. The link to this open access collection appears at the end of this communication, alongside simple instructions if you wish to make a contribution to it. We hope you and others will make use of this archive during and beyond this moment of vulnerability, grief, and crisis.
While the responses from other academic associations have offered welcome solidarity, and whereas many public statements stress understandable outrage, what remains “unreckoned” is the extent to which common popular discussions about Asian American vulnerability (as pandemic scapegoats) and vulgar stereotypes (as model minorities, feminized sexual objects, etc.) reflect and refract the persistence of white supremacy, antiblackness, colonialism, and misogyny as the cultural, social, and political foundations of the United States. These foundations continuously haunt the national past and present, as was recently evident in the opening statements made by Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) at the March 19, 2020 House Judiciary Committee hearing focused on violence against Asian Americans amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Characterizing China as a one of the “bad guys” while expressing concern that such a hearing was an assault on “free speech,” Rep. Roy concluded his dismissive comments with a direct and unapologetic allusion to the virtues of lynching.
The persistence of white supremacy brings into focus why the work we do—as an extended community of scholars, teachers, students, cultural workers, and organizers—matters. The violence targeting people of Asian descent throughout the US is not merely an outcome of “hate,” presidential rhetoric, “anti-Chinese” sentiment, or budding white supremacist misogynists having “very bad days.” The people of ASA are well-prepared—and obligated—to directly address the recent acceleration of anti-Asian violence. Despite recent political and ideological attacks on socially engaged, critical interdisciplinary curricula from K-12 to college, hundreds of us remain committed to a praxis of collective accountability that refuses to rely on simplistic, reductive explanations of misogynist, racist, xenophobic, anti-sex work atrocity.
We urge our members and their colleagues to draw on the various forms of public intellectual and research-intensive work that ASA scholars have produced in recent years, which provide accessible, deep analysis and explanation of what has happened and continues to happen.
Here is the link to the aforementioned, curated collection of resources, which we have tentatively named “ASA living archive: Addressing Anti-Asian, Anti-Sex Worker Violence:”
We extend an open invitation to ASA members to submit more works (including their own) to include in this open access resource. Please email President Dylan Rodríguez and/or President-Elect Cathy Schlund-Vials with your submissions (dylanrodriguezASA@gmail.com and firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the spirit of shared accountability and struggle,
Dylan Rodríguez (President)
Cathy Schlund-Vials (President-Elect)
Scott Kurashige (Past President)
Community announcements and events are services that are offered by the ASA to support the organizing efforts of critical constituency groups. They do not reflect the decisions or actions of the association’s governance bodies, the National Council or Executive Committee. Questions should be directed to the committee, caucus, or chapter that has authored and posted this notice.