You are reading

Op-Ed: Why the Atlanta Murders Hit So Close to Home 

Heajin (Hailie) Kim (Photo: Instagram @nyc_photographer_nikita)

March 30, 2021 Op-Ed By Hailie Kim

There was a distinct sinking and roiling in my stomach.  

“Are you a prostitute?” a man asked.  I was 17 at the time. I was not, in fact, a prostitute. I was and am, however, clearly an East Asian woman. 

This question: “are you a prostitute?” is one that made it so that between the ages of 18 and 22, I never wore a v-neck top. 

Even my prom dress went up to my neck. It was, or so I thought, very clearly my fault. Maybe if I hadn’t worn a v-neck shirt, a man wouldn’t have stalked me to my middle school when I was 13, driving alongside me and insisting that I get in his car. Maybe if I hadn’t worn a v-neck sweater, a man wouldn’t have followed me back home from school across the 39th Street bridge and grabbed at my chest when I was 17. 

This kind of fetishization and sexualization of Asian women was a clear factor in the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta. 

The murderer himself confessed to targeting Asian women because they were “temptations” for his sex addiction. This sexualization of Asian women has historically been tied to xenophobia, with Chinese women being barred entry from the United States in the 19th century, suspected of being prostitutes. 

There have, of course, been other historic forms of violence against Asians from the Japanese internment camps here in the US, to the deportation of Koreans from Russia to Central Asia and other Soviet satellite states in the 1930s. 

The words used to sexualize Asian women include “exotic” and “submissive.”

These are adjectives that have also been used to Other Asians at large, especially “exotic.” The phrase “chinavirus” is an example of this, making COVID-19 seem exotic or foreign, and other.

In order to un-Other Asians, it is necessary for there to be more Asian representation in popular culture to start undoing the years of negative portrayals of Asians in the Arts. At the level of government, we will also need to better integrate our neighborhoods and public schools. 

We need universal after school in order to ensure children of all races and socio-economic backgrounds spend time finding commonalities with each other.  Perhaps I’m a little biased as an educator, but education, education, education are the ways to ensure hate crimes like the ones we are seeing cease. 

Hailie Kim is an adjunct professor in the English department at Hunter College.  She is running for City Council in District 26 to represent Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Astoria.  

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Long Island City teen sentenced in fatal shooting of ‘beloved’ school teacher at Queensbridge Houses in 2020: DA

A Long Island City man on Friday, Jan. 28, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the 2020 fatal shooting of a public school social studies teacher who was out walking his dog when he was caught in the crossfire during a confrontation between gang rivals in broad daylight, just blocks from his home, according to Queens District Attorney’s office.

Ike Ford, 19, of 12th Street, in Long Island City, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. The teacher, George Rosa, 53, was shot in his abdomen by a stray bullet fired by Ford, who was just 17 years old at the time of the shooting but was sentenced as an adult given the severity of the crime, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams explained that the school lost nearly a quarter of its students at the height of the pandemic due to the economic effects of the lockdown on low-income Queens households.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.