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Atlanta Shooting Suspect’s ‘Bad Day’ and the Whitewashing of White Crime

Rex Huppke, Tribune Content Agency on

The 21-year-old white man who went on a shooting spree at several Georgia spas, killing eight people, including six Asian women, was having a bad day, you see.

I know that because Capt. Jay Baker, a spokesperson for the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, said so during a Wednesday press conference about the murders. He said of the accused mass murderer, Robert Aaron Long: “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”

Well, heck. We all have bad days, don’t we?

Baker, who is white, continued playing the role of Long’s defense attorney, saying: “He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”

Long told police the attacks were not racially motivated. So there we have it, right? Within hours of his arrest, the young, white alleged mass shooter is given a cover story that will allow many white Americans to neatly file his acts under a category that isn’t “racist” or “misogynist” or “xenophobic,” or all three.

If you don’t see this as a problem, you might be part of the problem.

 

No one right now knows exactly what motivated Long to buy a gun and murder seven women and one man. But whatever motivated him, it wasn’t “a really bad day,” and “sexual addiction” is not something a police officer can expertly cite as an explanation.

The rampage shook people in Asian communities across the country, and rightfully so. Hate crimes against Asian Americans increased nearly 150 percent last year, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.

It’s no mystery why this has happened. Our former president and other right-wing figures took to calling the coronavirus pandemic everything from “the China Virus” to “Kung Flu,” hurling red meat at their xenophobic and white supremacist supporters and cynically demonizing Asian Americans in the process.

Do we know Long was specifically targeting Asian women? No, but it seems an odd coincidence he targeted businesses that employed Asian women. More importantly, we don’t know his exact motive, so given what’s known about the crime and the anti-Asian climate in the country, shouldn’t we be taking the possibility this was a hate crime seriously rather than writing the murders off to an amorphous “sexual addiction”? Yes, we should.

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