The media focus on Black-Asian “tensions” promoted the misleading idea that Black people are the main perpetrators of anti-Asian attacks.
“The misleading focus on Black people attacking Asians is a ploy to take the focus off white supremacy and place the blame elsewhere.”
We’ve been inundated with reporting about racially targeted violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic. The reporting has taken some interesting turns as of late. For the last several weeks the mainstream news media’s coverage of anti-Asian attacks has been pushing a false narrative that Black people are attacking Asians. The most egregious of these mainstream media concoctions was JuJu Chang’s report for ABC’s Nightline in February. The report centered on the very sad and tragic incident of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84 year old Thai American man, who died after being forcefully pushed to the ground in a daylight attack in San Francisco. The report then shifted to focus on anti-Asian attacks as a Black and Asian problem.
The spin was obvious. Although other groups were mentioned, only “tensions” between Asians and Blacks were discussed. The focus on Black people promoted the misleading idea that Black people are the main perpetrators of anti-Asian attacks. It gives the falseimpression that there exists some long standing enmity between Blacks and Asians—as if Black people have some special cause to attack Asians. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
“Although other groups were mentioned, only “tensions” between Asians and Blacks were discussed.”
The Nightline report went on to feature the white husband of the victim’s daughter, who made a plea to the Black community stating, “We need the Black community to realize that Black people are hurting Asians…” This plea to the Black community is completely racist as it assumes that Black people as a group are responsible for the criminal act of an individual and are somehow able to prevent random acts of crime committed by persons they have never met or have anything to do with. The Nightline hit piece uses an old racist tactic where the action of a single person is used as a proxy for the vilification of an entire group—a tactic that is always used against Black people.
The selective reporting by the white media regarding anti-Asian violence has relied on repetition of a handful of allegedly racially motivated incidents involving Black perpetrators who are usually homeless or suffering from behavioral or emotional problems. This is a form of propaganda which uses constant repetition of imagery associating Black people with crime and depicting African-Americans stereotypically as criminals compared with their actual crime rates. There’s been several studies examining the overrepresentation of Blacks as criminals on local news coverage in the US.
The skewed reports are a shameless attempt to make Black people the face of anti-Asian violence. These are old racist tricks at this point and one would think that the white-owned, corporate media and its representatives would know better.
The practice of criminalizing Black people dates back to Reconstruction where white racists used trumped-up charges to justify Black re-enslavement via convict leasing post emancipation. More recently, the manufactured association of Black people with crime via the war on drugs, has been used to fuel mass-incarceration—or more accurately, Black targeted incarceration.
There’s Been a History of White Supremacist Violence Towards Asian People
Undoubtedly, the assumption of Black criminality has been co-opted by non-white groups who themselves have been oppressed under white supremacy. These non-white groups which include Asians, are used as buffer groups who seek proximity to white status and its economic benefits. That is to say, the desire to be accepted by the white power structure is used as a carrot-on-a-stick which entices non-white groups to practice racism against Black people. This is how white supremacy maintains its racial hierarchy—a hierarchy that strategizes to keep Black people at the very bottom.
Conditions of poverty and untreated mental illness, which are to be expected under the injustice system of white supremacy, will always lead to random incidents of crime. However, Black people collectively are not and have never had a history of attacking Asians or any other ethnic group for that matter. With the ubiquity of small Asian businesses in Black neighborhoods, there have been sporadic outbreaks of conflict between Blacks and Asians. In spite of this, Black people continue to support Asian businesses (you’d be hard-pressed to find this reciprocated). This all pales, however, in comparison to the history of white supremacist violence towards Asians.
This fictional narrative was put to the test with the recent mass murder in Atlanta. On March 16, Robert Aaron Long, a white man, fatally shot eight people, including six women of Asian descent at massage spas in the Atlanta area. This was only a recent example of the history of anti-Asian violence perpetrated by white men.
On June 19,1982, in Detroit, Vincent Chin, a Chinese man was beaten to death by two white auto workers who mistook Vincent for Japanese. The two men blamed him for rising unemployment in the US auto industry due to the success of Japanese imports. August 17, 1992, 19 year old, Luyen Phan Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American pre-med student, was savagely beaten to death in Coral Springs Florida by a gang of white men who shouted racial slurs. On January 15, 2019, Arthur Martunovich killed three Asian men with a hammer at the Seaport Buffet restaurant in Brooklyn. Witnesses to the murderous rampage told police that Martunovich actually stated he had a problem with Asians. December 23, 2020, Angelo Quinto, a 30 year old, Filipino immigrant and navy veteran, lost consciousness after Northern California police kneeled on his neck for 5 minutes. This occurred just seven months after the similar murder of George Floyd.
"I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”
-- Muhammad Ali
These are only a few examples of the more recent history of white supremacist violence towards Asian people. Taking a farther look back, in 1886 anti-Chinese violence erupted as most of Seattle’s Chinese population was forcibly expelled by a mob of white men. This occurs just four years after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. We all know about the Japanese internment which was the forced relocation and incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps during World War II. The overwhelming history of white supremacist discrimination and violence towards Asians is capped off by the US bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 which killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people. And the massive bombing campaign during the Vietnam war where an estimated seven million tons of bombs were dropped on North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
It must be noted, that Images of war injured Vietnamese children who were badly burned and disfigured, mostly from the napalm bombing of Vietnam by US forces, is what moved Martin Luther King Jr. to speak out against the war. Additionally, the unwillingness of conscious Black people to endorse or participate in the US government’s white supremacist wars against Asian people is further exemplified by boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who refused to be drafted into the Vietnam War stating; "I got nothing against no Viet Cong. No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”
Considering this history and the recent Atlanta Spa murders, will the white media now promote stories about the history of white supremacist violence towards Asians? Will they feature stories with similar impassioned pleas asking white people to stop hurting Asians?
The goal is to invalidate Black people’s claim of racism against white supremacy and its enforcement arm—the police.
Why is there a concerted effort by the press to make Black people the face of anti-Asian violence? What are the goals of pushing this fraudulent narrative? For insight, we must understand the ideology of white supremacy and what it is based on. White supremacy is not based on anti-Asian racism—it is not based on anti-Latino racism—white supremacy is based on a single, evil proposition—anti-Black racism. And violence targeted at Black people is the sine qua non of white supremacy.
For one, the misleading focus on Black people attacking Asians is a ploy to take the focus off white supremacy and place the blame elsewhere. White supremacy is the real purveyor of racial oppression both domestically and globally and most people are aware of this. Placing the blame on Black people for anti-Asian attacks is meant to instill in the public consciousness that Black people are also racist. It provides white racists with a talking point to hide behind—when confronted with the truth about their own racism, the deflection becomes; “What about Black people, they’re racists too.” The goal here is to invalidate Black people’s righteous claim of racism against white supremacy and its enforcement arm—the police.
“White supremacy is the real purveyor of racial oppression both domestically and globally.”
Secondly, during last summer’s protests against police violence, Black people led the charge to “defund the police.” This is still fresh in the minds of white supremacists. The media’s fictional narrative about Black people attacking Asians, counters the defund movement by providing justification for more law enforcement initiatives—particularly, initiatives that will target Black people.
As expected, President Biden, who made his career as a senator sponsoring crime bills targeting Black people, is now urging Congress to pass the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act. A bill which, among other provisions, will provide support for state and local law enforcement agencies. While campaigning for the presidency, Biden stated he was against defunding the police and would actually give more funding to police—like clockwork, here’s a new crime bill which will increase police budgets.
And lastly, white supremacy looks for any opportunity to target Black people under the pretext of public safety. The white media generated hysteria focusing on Black perpetrators produces racial animus against Black people. It is meant to demonize Black people and the demonization of a people always precedes physical attacks upon them. The public becomes primed to go along with the inevitable law enforcement violence (including civilian, George Zimmerman style violence, which will undoubtedly target Black people.
On Thursday, March 25, officials for the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced it will deploy undercover officers as decoys to combat a rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in New York City. The undercover officers are a supplement to the NYPD's Asian Hate Crimes Task Force, which is an 18-member detective squad created last summer. This is despite the fact that just last year, after being urged by reform advocates, the NYPD agreed to disband its plainclothes anti-crime units due to disproportionate civilian complaints and shootings.
“White supremacy looks for any opportunity to target Black people under the pretext of public safety.”
Of course, the disproportionate shootings by police are always predominantly of Black people. We should not forget that plainclothes officer, Daniel Pantaleo, murdered Eric Garner in 2014. Plainclothes officers were also involved in the shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo in 1999, Sean Bell in 2006 and Saheed Vassell in 2018. The police fully understand how the media’s criminalization of Black people works in their favor, as well as how they are to execute their end of the white supremacist bargain.
The false narrative about Black people attacking Asians is ultimately designed to harm Black people. The white media is pure propaganda and propaganda is warfare. In the words of Noam Chomsky, “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” We cannot allow the non-stop anti-Black propaganda promoted by white supremacy’s propaganda arm—the mainstream media, to criminalize us. We recognize the set up, we callout the lies, we fight back.
Thad Baltimore is a designer living in New York City. Reach him at: www.tbaltimore.com
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