Asian women murdered — so what?

Ken Dow ✈️
5 min readMar 19, 2021

Before you get upset and say that I’m not taking this seriously, I don’t mean “so what?” as in this doesn’t matter.

I mean “so what?” as in, after this heinous act, how should we think about what actions led to the environment that encouraged this shooter to go on his hate-driven rampage. We should think more thoughtfully about what conversations we should be having rather than just accepting however the mass media is telling us how to think about this.

By now, you might have seen the headlines of the shooter who went on a mass rampage shooting spree across a few massage spas in the Atlanta area and murdered 8 people, the majority of whom were Asian women. There’s no need to re-count the details here, but let’s talk about the aftermath.

Some of the discussion is on whether the shooter should be charged with a hate crime. The answer is obviously yes.

Some of the discussion of whether the previous administration’s encouragement of anti-Asia created the environment to enable this sort of result. The answer is obviously yes.

These are simple questions with simple answers. Harking on these points do not bring the conversation forward. Constantly talking about them crowds out the more meaningful, harder to have discussions.

It strikes me as quite interesting why is this the first Anti-Asian crime to receive anything quite resembling mass media attention. Anti-Asian crimes have been happening for as long as there have been Asians in the country and have definitely picked up over the last few years. So why is this the first crime that has received this level of attention?

Just look up any of the following names. This is just a VERY short list of Asians who were murdered in an Anti-Asian hate crime recently.

  • Vicha Ratanapakdee
  • Pak Ho
  • Kevin Jiang
  • Ee Lee
  • Juanito Falcon
  • Thu Nguyen

If you read through their stories, you may come to the same conclusion. Every victim was equally innocent, every victim was equally unfairly targeted, and every single crime was absolutely heinous.

So what is it about the Atlanta massage spa killings that makes it worth more attention? Maybe it’s just the straw that broke the camel’s back. However, I think the real answer is a bit more sinister.

The media’s job is not to tell us facts. The media’s job is not to get us to become better people or citizens. The media’s job is not to build up a well-functioning society. The media has one and only one job — to monetize our attention.

They do so categorizing every single story with a few standard media narratives. These narratives They do so by targeting those that are least likely to think critically or challenge why certain narratives are what they are.

So the question is — what are the standard media narratives relevant here?

  • Black people are on the top of the oppression chain
  • White supremacy (and associated right wing extremism) is the root cause of all evil
  • Women, especially those exploited for sex work, are under duress

Now, I generally believe that these statements are true if they were toned down a bit. But the degree to which they’re actually true is probably far from what the media would like us to believe.

If you look at the prior incidents of Anti-Asian crimes, the perpetrator usually is a Black male. Shining too much attention calling this out would go too much against the standard media narratives.

Here’s a social media meme floating around right now. If we couldn’t talk about all lives mattering during the peaks of the BLM movement because those conversations would take away from focusing on the issues most acutely affecting Black Americans at that point in time, then someone please tell me why it is appropriate to mention other groups when the focus now is on Asian Americans.

If you look at the prior incidents of Anti-Asian crimes, the perpetrator usually does not show any obvious signs of political affiliation. No purpose in giving up valuable media attention to call this out.

Here’s a social media meme bringing up the fact that white perpetrators tend to get easy treatment in law enforcement compared to others. Yes, this is absolutely true. But is that the relevant point to make here? Isn’t the relevant point to focus on actual Anti-Asian crimes? Why must we contrast the easy treatment that the murderer in this case got against the typical treatment that Black Americans tend to receive?

If you look at the prior incidents of Anti-Asian crimes, women do make up a significant (and majority) share of the victims. However, none of these women were easily associated with the standard tropes of victimization called out by the feminism movement — they were just “regular” women.

Here’s a social media meme calling out “Stop Asian Hate”, but the photos are all of young Asian women. Is the movement about Anti-Asian crime? Or Anti-Asian crime against women?

Let me answer that — it’s absolutely not about Anti-Asian crime against women. I thought the Anti-Asian crimes against elderly Asian women were pretty awful. Why didn’t those get mass media attention?

Why did it have to take the multiple murders of relatively young Asian women somewhat associated with sexuality to get this sort of attention? Is it perhaps that those are the easier narratives to sell?

Stay (actually) woke, people. If you want to support the movement, please support the movement. Don’t let the the media use their standard narratives to weaponize your anger to turn this movement into fighting someone else's’ battle.

Don’t inadvertently create a scenario in which you need to support one of the standard media narratives in order to voice your support the Stop Asian Hate movement.