Debate over how to answer killings targeting women at Georgia spas

By Lisa Potash
April 5, 2021

ATLANTA — On March 16 Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old Caucasian, shot and killed eight people at three massage spas, two in Atlanta and one in nearby Cherokee County. Six of the eight people killed were Korean- or Chinese-American women, and two were Caucasian, a man and a woman. A Latino man doing business at the establishment next door to one of the spas was also seriously injured.

After Long was arrested, he told police he had been battling a sex addiction and he had to eliminate the spas he frequented to remove the “temptation.” He said that prejudice against Asians had nothing to do with the killings.

Those killed in Cherokee County were Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng. Those killed in Atlanta were Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue.

The cops have charged Long both with murder and “malice murder,” which means the killings were premeditated, charges that carry the death penalty in Georgia.

These murders provoked a response in Asian communities and a national debate over what Long’s brutal murders reflected and whether “hate crime” laws are the answer.

There has been an increase in threats and attacks against Asians in the U.S. since the advent of the coronavirus. This led many Asian Americans to speak out and protest after the killings. Julian In, 31, originally from Cambodia, carried a sign saying, “My parents didn’t survive the Khmer Rouge for this” at a rally in Atlanta March 20, his first protest. “We need to acknowledge the problem,” he told the Militant.

Liberal media and many Democratic Party politicians, in Georgia and the White House, say Long’s actions were racist, aimed at Asians, and demand officials in Georgia file “hate crime” charges. They say working people are becoming more racist and reactionary. CNN went so far as to headline its coverage, “White supremacy and hate are haunting Asian Americans.”

In fact, government statistics show that many of the stepped-up attacks against people of Asian background have been carried out by African Americans.

What are the known facts?

There is no evidence Long is a racist or anti-Asian bigot. When he was arrested he told police he was afflicted with an uncontrollable sex addiction, couldn’t stay away from massage spas where he got gratification, and acted to eliminate the “temptation.” It was certainly an attack against women.

Long is a longtime evangelical Christian activist, dating back to public school. He was distraught over the conflict between his religion and his behavior. He twice checked himself into inpatient programs — at Maverick Recovery and HopeQuest Ministry Group — for over six months, but continually relapsed and visited the spas. He repeatedly told fellow patients about his crisis, and his hatred for the pornography industry, Tyler Bayless, who was his roommate in Maverick, told the Washington Post.

Bayless said other people at Maverick asked Long if he had a “thing” for Asian women, and he said no.

Long was a regular visitor to the spas he attacked, which were targets of cop investigations into prostitution. Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County is one mile from HopeQuest. And all three spas were listed on specialized websites aimed at people who are seeking places where they could get sex.

Former classmates from Sequoyah High School said Long was outraged by racist behavior. When one student was filmed using a racist slur, another told WGCL-TV, “That made him angry, and he said, ‘That’s dumb,’ like pretty much, like, ‘Why are they being racists?’”

Long’s murderous attacks were “horrific and heartbreaking,” Bret Stephens said in his New York Times  column March 22. But he also points out that it is wrong for the liberal media and politicians to misuse them to promote a “narrative” of white supremacist violence.

The Democratic Party put its stamp on this “narrative” in a big way. President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited Atlanta, calling the killings a “hate crime.” And Biden implied U.S. working people are to blame, saying, “Our silence is complicity.”

“My party will join any action that protests assaults against anyone because they are Asian,” Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Atlanta, told the Militant. “But we start with the facts, not a ‘narrative.’

“And we oppose so-called hate crime laws, which are used against what people think, not what they do,” she said. “Laws against ‘hate speech’ don’t stop racism. That requires a mass working-class movement that fights against racist acts, especially the racist practices of the bosses and their government. A powerful example is the massive Black-led movement that overthrew Jim Crow segregation.”