War, Violence, and the Exploitation of Girls, Women and Feminized Trans & Gender-Nonconforming Persons: Connecting to the Mass Shooting in Atlanta

Medicinal plant ampalaya or bitter melon vine growing around barbed wire in Queens, NY, USA.
Medicinal plant ampalaya or bitter melon vine growing around barbed wire in Queens, NY, USA.

This article is a collaboration between Cecilia Lim and AL Caballes, drawing from their lived experience in community, including anti-oppression study and practice, and grassroots-based movement work at the local, regional, national, and transnational levels.

Any death is a loss that affects us.

If you’ve ever received a massage from a migrant Asian woman, you are connected to the people who were murdered in Atlanta, GA last week.

If you are a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, you are connected to the women who were murdered in Atlanta, GA last week.

If you have a beloved mother, sister, daughter, aunt, you are connected to the women who were murdered in Atlanta, GA last week.

We are im/migrant and US-born cis women of Asian Pacific Islander heritage who are deeply affected by the mass shooting in Cherokee County, right outside of Atlanta, GA. We’ve been leaning on each other and others in our communities to move through heartbreak, grief, and rage. As community organizers, we’ve also been working together to figure out how to support others to engage with this event and its root causes, process their feelings, and consider taking action. This piece is part of that work.

On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, eight people, including four Korean and two Chinese women, were murdered by a young white man. Some of the people killed have been identified as Xiaojie Tan (49), Daoyou Feng (44), Delaina Ashley Yaun (33), and Paul Andre Michels (54). We are only including names that families consented to release to media.

The fatal, racialized violence a young white man enacted against these Asian women is connected to the US history of war and colonization in Asia and the Pacific Islands. The violence is compounded by sexism and male domination. As Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawai’i Commission on the Status of Women, put it, “White men have been trained, peer pressured, and hazed by the US military to release their anxiety, self-loathing, and hatred of the enemy onto Asian women’s bodies. From Olongapo to Okinawa. For generations. This is what we are up against. Whether the women were in the sex industry or not, they were hated because of the sexualized racist stereotypes that the sex industry sells. If we want to end anti-Asian racism, we will have to abolish all the structures that create it.”

The murder of these six Asian women is linked to the US-military and police-connected murders of Jennifer Laude in Olongapo, Philippines and of Yang Song and Vanessa Guillen in New York and Texas, in the United States.

War is a tool used to uphold the class structure. War is about gaining access to and controlling resources (human and/or other natural resources like oil) in order to profit from the sale of those resources, to further consolidate wealth into the hands of a few, widening the divide between the haves and have-nots. The class structure is built upon a foundation of human exploitation. Girls, women, and feminized trans and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) persons are hyper-exploited for the work they do taking care of the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of other people. Liberation requires girls, women, and feminized TGNC persons to develop awareness around and reconsider the ways we’ve been trained to endure all forms of violence including sexual violence. Liberation requires men to work actively to reclaim their full humanity and dismantle the military and end the exploitation and dehumanization of girls, women, and feminized TGNC persons.

Whatever position we have in this society, whichever identities we hold, each one of us has a connection to a history of war, violence, and the exploitation of girls & women. We need to find our connection to those who are the most exploited and least glorified in the work they do. We need to work through the feelings that we are left with because of our personal, institutional, and systemic experiences with violence. We need to build relationships across identities so that we can remember and be reminded of our interdependence in the struggle for liberation. All this is necessary, so that we can think of new ways to take action, at every level, to effect the radical social change we need.

Increased policing and militarization — in our homes, in our communities, and across sovereign nations and occupied territories — is not the answer.

Some questions to consider:

  • Where are we pulled to identify with these women? To see their struggles as our own?

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