Atlanta police won’t comment on whether spa killings were hate crime, but say they’re investigating


As my colleague David Neiwert has pointed out, even taking Robert Aaron Long’s denial of anti-Asian motives, Long’s statement about his intent to target women he saw as sources of temptation “is de facto evidence of a gender bias against women, which is one of the categories of motive under federal and Georgia’s state hate-crimes laws.” But for police to decline to comment on the specifics of an investigation is a lot more professional than to offer up the suspect’s explanations for his motivations at face value, as the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office did.

Capt. Jay Baker, the sheriff’s office spokesman who blandly explained on Wednesday that Long “was pretty much fed up, kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” is no longer the spokesman on this case, with the sheriff releasing a statement saying Baker “had a difficult task before him, and this was one of the hardest in his 28-years in law enforcement.” Baker’s words, according to the sheriff, “were not intended to disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy, or express empathy or sympathy for the suspect.”

No word in that statement on how we should understand Baker’s past anti-Asian Facebook post.

Cherokee County law enforcement officials are clearly missing the reality here, whatever their intentions are in doing so.

“Law enforcement and society in general tends to really not understand how racism and hate and prejudice is directed toward Asian-Americans, and certainly not understand how it’s directed toward Asian-American women,” activist and author Helen Zia told The New York Times. “So the instant reaction is generally to discount and dismiss it.”

Zia told the newspaper that hate crimes against women of Asian descent are undercounted because they are so often also sexual in nature and end up being recorded as sex crimes, not hate crimes, when in fact they are both. We seem to be watching that in real time this week.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had already planned a visit to Georgia Friday to promote the benefits of the American Rescue Plan. They’ve changed that plan to instead use the visit to “meet with Asian-American leaders to discuss the ongoing attacks and threats against the community, meet with other local leaders, and also visit the Centers for Disease Control to receive an update from the team of health and medical experts helping lead the fight against the pandemic.”

House Democrats spoke out Thursday at a hearing on anti-Asian American hate. 

”I have a responsibility and a moral obligation to speak out,” said Rep. Doris Matsui, who was born in a Japanese American internment camp. “There is a systemic problem here. And we are duty bound to stop racist ideas that escalate to physical threats.”

”Our community is bleeding. We are in pain. And for the last year, we’ve been screaming out for help,” Rep. Grace Meng said.

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