On Wednesday night, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah addressed the mass shooting in Atlanta, where Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man from Woodstock, allegedly targeted Asian women at a number of massage parlors in the area, killing eight people—including six Asian women.
The rampage began at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth in Cherokee County, where two people were killed, one other person succumbed to their injuries en route to a nearby hospital, and one died while in treatment, according to the sheriff’s office. The victims were two Asian women, a white woman, and a white man, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A Hispanic man was also injured in the shooting and was rushed to a hospital for medical treatment, a spokesman for the sheriff said. About an hour later and 30 miles away, two spas on the same Atlanta street—Gold Spa and one in Aroma Therapy Spa—were targeted by gunfire, and four Asian women were killed.
After he was apprehended, Long blamed his supposed sex addiction for the killing spree—a dubious claim that was repeated uncritically by a number of prominent media outlets.
“What’s been sad about the story is not just the loss of life but all the auxiliary things that have been happening around the story,” said Noah. “Like, one of the first things that’s been the most frustrating for me is seeing the shooter say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t racism, it was sex addiction.’ First of all, fuck you, man. You killed six Asian people. Specifically. You went there. If there’s anyone who’s racist, it’s a motherfucker who kills six Asian women. Your murders speak louder than your words.”
On Tuesday, a study from the group Stop AAPI Hate found that there were 3,795 hate crime incidents targeting Asian Americans from March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021. Women were targeted in 68 percent of the reports, and as the report noted, “The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face.”
The rise in anti-Asian hate crimes is surely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, and has led to the scapegoating of Asians around the globe. Despite the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, prominent conservative figures—including former President Donald Trump and Fox News pundits—have repeatedly used racist language like “Kung-Flu” and “China Virus” to refer to the coronavirus.
“Six Asian women were killed!” exclaimed Noah. “And you know, in a way, what makes it even more painful is that we saw it coming. We see these things happening. People have been warning. People in the Asian community have been tweeting, saying, ‘Please, help us. We’re getting punched in the streets, we’re getting slurs written on our doors, we’re getting people coming up to us saying thanks for COVID, thanks for spoiling the world.’ We’ve seen this happening. And while we’re fighting for it, there are many people who have been like, ‘Oh, stop being so woke and so dramatic. Kung-Flu, hahaha. It’s just a joke.’ Yeah, it’s a joke that has come at one of the most tense times in human history. You knew that something like this could happen.”
“America does this time and time again—a country that wants to fight the symptoms and not the underlying conditions that cause those symptoms to take effect.”
He continued: “This guy didn’t go and kill these women by mistake. He knew what he was doing. And it’s so frustrating to see this keep happening in America over and over again. America sees things coming, it knows something is gonna happen, but it does nothing to stop it. But then it’s all-in on saying, ‘Oh, it’s so tragic, who could have predicted this tragedy?’ Anyone who was looking at it could. Why are people so invested in solving the symptoms instead of the cause? America does this time and time again—a country that wants to fight the symptoms and not the underlying conditions that cause those symptoms to take effect. Racism, misogyny, gun violence, and mental illness—and honestly, this incident might have been all of those things combined.”
Noah ended his speech with an impassioned plea to his viewers not to buy the suspected shooter’s line of BS.
“But whatever you do, please, don’t tell me that this thing had nothing to do with race,” he argued. “Even if the shooter says that—he thinks it has to do with his sex addiction—you can’t disconnect his violence from the racial stereotypes that people attach to Asian women. This guy blamed a specific race of people for his problems and then murdered them because of it. If that’s not racism then the word has no meaning.”