Here’s the takeaway message to all Asian Americans when violent acts against us aren’t treated as hate crimes.
We don’t count.
Justice doesn’t apply to us. We’re not seen, again.
You just need to remember Vincent Chin (I explain later) to understand the difficulty in getting justice for the six Asian women murdered last March in the Georgia spa killings: Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, 49, and Daoyou Feng, 44, in Cherokee County; and Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Young Ae Yu, 63, in Atlanta.
And that’s why I enter the name of Cherokee County (Georgia) District Attorney Shannon Wallace in my log of shameless unconscious transgressions against Asian Americans.
Wallace, a white woman who has served eight years as Cherokee County DA, didn’t see Asian American hate in her purview of the Atlanta spa killings.
Instead of going after the killer Robert Aaron Long, Wallace gave him an out, a more than generous plea deal.
Long just had to admit it wasn’t about race or hate. It was all about sex, I guess, to make it easy on all of us.
And so the unchallenged narrative in Tuesday’s hearing was that Long was a 22-year-old white, incelibate male who loved porn and sex, his Christian faith be damned.
And in Cherokee County, where Long visited a Korean spa, the two women who worked there were just shot because of sex. Race had nothing to do with it, apparently.
Xiaojie “Emily” Tan and Daoyou Feng were just coincidentally Asian American.
Do you buy that?
Not when Long then goes further into Fulton County, Atlanta and sees two other Korean spas, where he kills Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, and Young Ae Yue.
That’s not sex. That’s pure hate.
Long didn’t go after any sex workers of any other race. He went after Asian Americans of Korean descent.
Sex and hate might be rolled into one. But to get her plea bargain, DA Wallace ignored the hate part. Just didn’t see it.
And Long gave Wallace what she wanted, because Long got just what he wanted– four consecutive life sentences in prison, plus 35 years. Quasi-eternal damnation to appease his Christian guilt.
It’s still not enough.
Long got off light.
Isn’t that so when the defendant gets everything both he and his parents wanted?
Long avoided the death penalty. And he avoided any hate or bias crime charges.
“This was not any kind of hate crime,” said Wallace, sounding practically like Long’s lawyer, and not the prosecutor.
Wallace said she talked to Asian friends of Long and none said he showed race bias against Asians. But then again, they were his “friends;” what are they going to say?
Long spoke in court of his porn and sex addiction, no doubt to be in concert with the plea arrangement. But to family and friends of Tan and Feng, shouldn’t the fact that he killed two people of color be proof enough of some xenophobic rage? He wasn’t avenging the sex trade in the name of God.
And for Asians working in the spas? That’s hate bias.
Wallace reportedly said if the case had gone to trial, she would have sought hate crime enhancements based on gender, not race. And she said she would have sought the death penalty. But she didn’t, not for the Asian Americans.
We didn’t rise to her level for justice. DA Wallace didn’t see us.
THE MAIN EVENT IS STILL TO COME
Fortunately, this is a tale of two counties. On Aug. 23, Long will be arraigned in Atlanta’s Fulton County.
There, Fulton County DA Fani T. Willis has said she will go for the hate crime enhancements and the death penalty against Long.
Long’s attorneys have said in court he isn’t mentally incapacitated and sounds like he hopes to mount what I call a “give me what they gave me in Cherokee County” defense. Long’s attorneys appear to want a similar deal.
What’s more time in prison for a guy who already has four consecutive life sentences plus 35 years? He’s got time to give.
Of course by that logic, why even bother with a trial in Fulton County?
Because justice will be sought for the other four Asian American women: Suncha Kim; Soon Chung Park; Hyun Jung Grant; and Young Ae Yue.
Willis will pursue a 19-count indictment that includes murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, and domestic terrorism.
Willis isn’t piling on. She’s showing awareness of Asian Americans as people of color. Going after the death penalty and hate crimes shows we are seen in the eyes of the law.
Forgiveness, that’s another matter. That’s for the victims’ families and God.
During this ordeal, keep in mind the historical marker for hate crimes in Asian American history. Vincent Chin. The non-hate crime hate crime.
You think it’s easy for an Asian American family to find justice in America? Chin’s murderer, Ronald Ebens, was allowed to plead guilty to 2nd degree murder and given probation. He never spent a day in jail and was free after paying a $3,000 fine and court costs.
Ebens later was convicted on federal civil rights charges, but he was acquitted after a successful appeal. Even in the civil case won by Chin’s estate, Ebens has never paid a court-ordered $1.5 million to the family.
It’s tough getting justice in America, tougher still if you’re Asian American.
In the Atlanta spa killings, when Robert Aaron Long kills six of us, you’d think it would be easier.
But justice seems more elusive than ever.
NOTE: If you’d like, listen as I read this piece aloud with annotation on my “Emil Amok’s Takeout” Livestream on Facebook Watch at 2 pm Pacific, recorded later for www.amok.com. It’s show 102.