MSNBC recently reported that since March 18, Asian Americans have reported over 650 acts of discrimination. This is an alarming number and adds fire to the already boiling tension in many Asian American communities. Naturally, we are all looking for who is responsible for these actions. One opinion posits that white supremacists are the primary responsible for the spread of the coronavirus and the criminal acts against Asian Americans. While it is true that whites commit racists acts against Asian Americans, putting the onus solely on whites ignores the whole picture.
The premise that white supremacy is responsible seems to conflate individuals who are white and act out in idiotic fashion as white supremacists. The writing makes no effort to distinguish the two. Simply put, a crime committed by an individual who is white does not make them a white supremacist nor does it reinforce the notion that, “These are just a few examples of white supremacists spreading or attempting to spread the coronavirus”. According to the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists operate with the fundamental belief that whites should have dominance over people of other backgrounds, that white culture is superior than others, that whites are genetically superior and that they should live in a white-only society. By not distinguishing the two also raises the question, was it intentional to conflate the two? By lumping whites with white supremacists together and it seems to make the “low key” suggestion that whites are responsible for the spread of coronavirus without actually saying it out loud… because that would obviously be racist.
While it is correct that white supremacists have plotted to spread the virus and use it against law enforcement and Jews, as reported by the FBI, the individuals stories used in the writing do not support this. These individuals show no signs that they are white supremacists, are affiliated with white supremacists or that they willingly committed these crimes on behalf of white supremacists. Presumably, if these perpetrators were white supremacists with the intent to spread coronavirus, their targets would be people of color or communities of color, which has not been the case. In regards to activities that we will not help with the pandemic, we have examples of groups gathering despite shelter in place orders, like in East Oakland, or where restrictions on large group gatherings in St. Paul. Surely this is not helping to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The majority of individuals in these stories have also been arrested and charged with criminal activity. This cuts against the notion that, “These individuals know that their entire race will not be condemned from their singular act… they know that their actions are sanctioned by cultural attitudes of racism and xenophobia.” George Falcone was charged with third-degree terrorist threats, harassment and obstructing law. Cody Pfister, who licked deodorants at a Wal-Mart, was charged with making terrorist threats. His behavior is very similar to a woman licking a pint of ice cream and putting it back in the store freezer in 2019 and when Ariana Grande licked a donut at a donut shop. As for Margaret Cirko, who coughed on produce, she is facing two felony counts of terrorist threats and other misdemeanor counts of theft and disorderly conduct. Daniel Tabussi, is also facing charges of terroristic threats, assault, disorderly conduct and harassment. If indeed these behaviors were “sanctioned” there would be no arrest, no charges or any consequences for these individuals.
The inconvenient truth is that people of color are equally guilty in the hostilities against Asian Americans — particularly the most violent and high profile cases.
The perpetrator in Midland, Texas, where a Burmese family of four was attacked by knife, was 19 year old; Jose Gomez. He had the intention to kill the family and his case has been recently turned over to the FBI. During this attempted murder a Sam’s Club employee, Zach Owen, stepped in to disarm Gomez and held him until a Borders and Custom’s Officer was able to detain Gomez. Zach suffered injuries to his hand and leg, requiring multiple stitches. And what is Zach Owen’s identity? A white male.
One of the highest profile incident happened in San Francisco involving a 68 year old Asian American man who was collecting cans. The 68 year old was physically and verbally assaulted by two African Americans. During this display, a number of African American bystanders laughed and cheered. The offenders — 56 year old Jonathan Amerson and 20 year old Dwayne Grayson — have been arrested. However since their arrests in early March, the charges against Grayson have been dropped. Instead, Grayson will be going through a “city justice program”. As for the 56 year old Amerson, he has pleaded “not guilty”… this following an a revelation that two months prior he allegedly robbed the same 68 year old Asian American. Where are the calls of social justice for these two perpetrators?
Other attacks include:
- An alleged Chinese woman was attacked in the New York City subway on February 2, 2020, for wearing a mask — The attacker, an African American male.
- Another incident occurred in February on a subway in Philadelphia where an Asian couple or group was “punched, kicked and stomped on”. The attackers were described as a “herd of black kids”.
- Another incident, again on a subway, in New York where an Asian male was sprayed down with air freshener… the perpetrator… an African American male.
- Another Asian man was attacked in New York. He was splashed by water and after confronting the perpetrators he was physically assaulted and fought back. The perpetrators were described as “Hispanic”.
- Again, another 59 year old Asian man was attacked. This incident occurred in mid-March. This victim was kicked in the back and while on the ground was told to go back to his country. This perpetrator had allegedly targeted this victim before, spitting in his face. This perpetrator was described as a long haired teen wearing a red track suit. By all video evidence, this individual does not look like a white supremacists.
- More recently and locally, there was a video of a Hmong woman being verbally assaulted with statements like, “you a freak” and proclaiming the Hmong woman “got it” (the coronavirus). The victimizer, an African American woman.
During this time we should all be doing our parts to slow the spread of this virus and strive to ease the racial tensions instead of stoking the fire. To suggest that whites are the sole scourge of these racist acts is a stretch, ignores the hard evidence that people of color are participating in racist acts against Asian Americans and undermines the idea touted by many cities across America that, “Viruses Don’t Discriminate and Neither Should We”. Shifting the blame to “white supremacy” also absolves individuals, who actually physically harmed Asian Americans, of any responsibility for the crimes committed. Citing these cases does not dismiss or minimize the racist and discriminatory conduct by White individuals, rather, suggests all behaviors of this nature are abhorrent and any individual, regardless of background, should be held accountable and punished to the furthest extent of the law.