By Neal Christie
Tuesday’s series mass murder of six Asian American women is both heinous and indicative of a larger systemic problem. We mourn each of these women’s senseless deaths and stand with their families in their grief but not in disbelief. Compounding this anti-Asian hate crime is the blatant misogyny and anti-woman violence that women of color and transwomen are subjected to everyday. And we are awake to the fact that this happened in a predominantly Asian American neighborhood where safety and security cannot presume to shield persons of color from white racist violence.
We witness a heavy silence and perhaps a feeling of disbelief and stuckness by predominantly White congregations who see themselves as untouched by these mass killings.
The AAPI Hate records nearly 4,000 anti-Asian crimes have been reported since the start of this pandemic. Not one of these acts was inevitable. We know that not every hate crime has been reported. The impact of the past Administration’s anti-Asian and anti-immigrant rhetoric has now metastasized and given license for anti-Asian hate to spread. The United Methodist Church must repent for those times when we remained silent and when we have not equipped our congregations to address implicit bias, scapegoating, and our participation in cultural, political, and economic systems that perpetuate the sin of racism.
An analogy to this would be reporting that a house is on fire or saying that an arsonist has set a home ablaze. There is a difference.
Rev. Neal Christie
We also need to be very clear that this is a patterned behavior. It can be addressed, and the cycle needs to be broken. In the days and weeks after the tragedy of 9/11 we saw an escalation of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, primarily those of Indian and Pakistani as well as Middle Eastern ancestry and decent. I and my family experienced this myself numerous times—unwarranted detention by police, verbal harassment, threats from strangers.
During this pandemic we see the same ugly and too frequently unquestioned pattern—biased attitudes acted out in mistreatment or abusive behavior toward Asian Americans, unexpected acts of verbal and physical assault by strangers, a heavy silence and perhaps a feeling of disbelief and stuckness by predominantly White congregations who see themselves as untouched by these mass killings. But their collective action and public witness to condemn both the shooting and motivation behind the shooting is absolutely essential if we want to get to the root of the problem.
Congregations can and should openly discuss ways we can tangibly stand in solidarity to protect targeted Asian-Americans and other communities of color.
Several cities have said they would deploy more police officers to Asian neighborhoods in the wake of this attack. But overpolicing in Asian American communities or any communities of color does nothing to fix the underlying issues . Congress has introduced the Hate Crime Victim Assistance Act – but has not acted on this legislation – which treats hate crimes as a public health priority by establishing national hate crimes reporting hotlines, putting into place for the first time a national database to track hate crimes, increase community based access to mental health support for survivors of hate crimes. Congress must pass the Violence Against Women Act as well.
It is time to move forward on concrete actions without delay. Right now, a crime may be reported but it up the discretion of law enforcement to determine if it is violent crime or a hate crime. An analogy to this would be reporting that a house is on fire or saying that an arsonist has set a home ablaze. There is a difference.
The No Hate Act builds on existing hate crimes legislation and requires offenders to be held accountable to community they have harmed as part of their restitution and at the state and federal level better report targeted, hate motivated crimes as hate crimes. Congregations can and should openly discuss ways we can tangibly stand in solidarity to protect targeted Asian-Americans and other communities of color, speak truthfully about the racialized rhetoric among our families and in our workplaces that directly contributes to legitimating racist hate, and live into our baptismal covenant to resist evil and oppression in all its forms.
Congregations, alongside Asian American communities, can and should advocate to their town, county, state and national legislators to ensure that these hate crimes stop. We must put an end to the senseless killing of Asian-Americans and all vulnerable people or color.
Rev. Neal Christie is a consultant and instructor with The Lakelands Institute LLC and an ordained Elder in the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church. This article was originally published by The Lakelands Institute, founded by RCC member Rev. Steven D. Martin, and is used with permission.