Asia Times: US has become an unsafe place for Asian people

Asia Times: US has become an unsafe place for Asian people. The real problem comes from the heated rhetoric associated with the increasing competition between the US and China 亞洲時報:美國已經成為亞洲人不安全的地方。真正的問題來自與中美之間日益激烈的競爭相關的激烈言論 By ADRIEL KASONTA FEB 8, 2023

Police on guard in Monterey Park, California..Photo: Democracy Now
Every human life is priceless, and every human death is a source of great suffering. Unfortunately, not every loss is equal, since we have to distinguish between the manners of death, which can be divided into those caused by natural and unnatural factors.

With this in mind, it is apparent that murder belongs to the latter category and causes the most anger among those close to the victim, since they know very well that if it were not for the arbitrary decision of a killer, their beloved person would have been still with them.

This certainly is the case regarding the tragic event that occurred last month in Monterey Park, California, during the first in-person celebrations of the Lunar New Year since the Covid-19 outbreak. To be more specific, the city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles, where Asian people constitute around two-thirds of its residents, became a place of a bloody massacre.

After the 72-year-old suspect known as Huu Can Tran allegedly entered the Star Ballroom Dance Studio and opened fire without any particular reason, 10 people were killed, and another 10 were wounded.

Before the killer tried to commit another crime in another club in the neighboring city of Alhambra, he was stopped by two bystanders but managed to run away. When he was finally approached by police the next day, January 22, he committed suicide.

What is the most striking in this tragic story is the fact that the city of about 60,000 inhabitants is known to be an oasis of peace, “where everybody knows each other and helps each other,” as Chester Chong, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles, put it.

Sadly, this was not the only shooting in California last month where the victims were ethnic Asians. In Half Moon Bay, a small, idyllic coastal town, seven people were killed, and five of the victims were Chinese citizens.

What is important to ask is whether mass killings should be the only measure of a threat posed to a particular group of people or whether other factors and instances of violence should also be considered when we assess the actual or perceived risk.

To answer this question, it is worth recalling the incident that occurred the same month in Bloomington, Indiana, when Billie Davis, 56, attacked an 18-year-old Indiana University student on public transport for being Asian. To be more precise, the woman stabbed the victim “approximately seven times” in the head with a folding knife while the latter was about to get off the bus.

While the case of the Indiana University student had a happy ending and the assaulted person survived, other Asian victims did not have the same luck.

A few days before the Bloomington attack, a man pleaded guilty to manslaughter as a hate crime. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for assaulting a Chinese-American man in 2021, and another man pleaded guilty and was jailed for 20 years for first-degree manslaughter by hitting a Chinese woman with a rock in the same year. Both cases took place in New York City.

We see a clear pattern of targeted attacks against Asians, which started during the Covid-19 pandemic and was amplified by former president Donald Trump through his highly irresponsible “Chinese virus” rhetoric.

As the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported, anti-Asian hate crimes saw an unprecedented increase of 339% in the US between 2020 and 2021, with New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles at the forefront of this terrifying phenomenon.

A survey conducted by Pew Research in 2022 expands on the topic by providing invaluable insight from Asian-Americans, where we can find that 63% of respondents confirm that violence against them in the US is increasing.

What is particularly shocking is the psychological impact that this state of affairs has on the said ethnic group, with one in five of those polled worrying daily about the possibility of being threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity. Moreover, 36% of those surveyed admitted that they changed their daily schedules or routines because of this fact.

It is worth noting that the Pew Research study was conducted about a year after one of the most (in)famous and racially motivated attacks against Asians in the US since the pandemic outbreak. The “Atlanta spa murders,” as the killings were dubbed, were conducted by Robert Aaron Long. Six of his eight victims were of Asian descent, and that is why Long was charged with hate crimes on top of the murders.

Although indeed significant steps have been taken by President Joe Biden to address the anti-Asian dilemma by signing into law the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Bill (introduced by New York Representative Grace Meng), the real problem comes from the heated rhetoric associated with the increasing competition between the US and China and (sadly) Washington’s zero-sum thinking.

Assessing the current state of affairs from the Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT) perspective, it becomes clear that the situation leads to a growing resentment among less well-off members of American society who strongly believe that China is stealing their jobs and wealth – the very argument that Republican demagogues skillfully exploit to score their political goals.

If the Biden administration wants to avoid the situation where the story of Vincent Chan becomes the new normal in the US, it would be well advised to find the wisdom to reassess its current strategy vis-à-vis Beijing and then find the strength to correct the confrontational language that affects American citizens and results in insecurity and suffering of Asian people.

Adriel Kasonta is a London-based political risk consultant and lawyer. He is an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) in Moscow and former chairman of the International Affairs Committee at the oldest conservative think tank in the UK, Bow Group. Kasonta is a graduate of London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). You can follow him on Twitter @Adriel_Kasonta.

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