Jaemin Kim: Asian Women: Rape And Hate Crimes
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jaemin-kim/lets-call-it-what-it-is_b_1636. Jaemin Kim
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"Older, White Critics . Missed the Boat" by making an issue of the interracial relationship in
the movie Rachel Getting Married, posted Defamer.com last October. In rare form, the popularblog site -- known for mercilessly ridiculing celebrities and media players -- took a principledstance.
The posting chided well-known film critics for focusing on race when reviewing the film. Thecritics were preoccupied with the fact that white Rachel was marrying a black man. In the film,however, the couple's ethnicities go unmentioned. And this is the way a "cultural melting pot"should be, Defamer rhapsodized.
"[W]hite people can marry black people in 2008 without someone giving a speech about it,"Defamer moralized.
But one month later, Gawker, their New York-based sister site, turned its back on racial
sensitivity. "Following Hallowed Nerd Tradition, Michael Phelps Dates Asian Chick," blasted theNov. 29, 2008 headline. In stark contrast to Defamer's impassioned call for the acceptance andrespect of white/black couples, Gawker offered a lecture debasing Caucasian/Asian couples anddehumanizing Asian women.
"Michael Phelps is kind of a dweeb," Gawker wrote. "So it's funny that he's gone and done
what so many newly-rich, videogame-anime-lady-obsessed nerds have done before him: he'sfound himself an Asian girlfriend."
In a link, Gawker then "outed" a list of other famous and very powerful Caucasian men
romantically involved with women of Asian descent. The men - although widely perceived asMasters of the Universe -- are mocked as "nerds." But the truly troubling aspect of the Gawkerstory, and many of the discussion posts it spawned, is how they demean and commoditize allAsian women.
Indicative of where society stands today, the postings are racially inflammatory. The
participants of one thread theorized Asian women have different gynecological anatomy thanother human beings. Others repeat racist beliefs that this entire ethnic category of women are"submissive" and mindless, sexual playthings to be bought and sold.
Jaemin Kim: Asian Women: Rape And Hate Crimes
Normal attraction, love and respect cannot exist in such pairings, implied the Gawker writer
who started the discussion. "[L]ook at all these rich nerds with fetching Asian ladies on theirarms. We don't want to sound 'offensive' but it's just a thing, you know?" he wrote. " . a cliche."
The inapposite nature of Gawker and Defamer's two pieces about interracial dating is telling.
Asian-American women suffer a stunning exception to hard-fought notions about racial equalityapplied to other minority groups. It is a societal norm to reduce an Asian woman to a sexualizedstereotype, a one-faceted "thing" that is exclusively an object of desire. It is with breathtakingease that even Gawker -- read and written by an educated, urbane class -- thinks nothing ofendorsing this dangerous bigotry.
I repeat: these stereotypes are dangerous. Reducing Asian women into a sexual object is not
funny, it is not flattering. It is perilous. We can see this when Asian women are subject torace-targeted sexual violence. The racist nature of the crimes go unrecognized and unpunished,as if there is nothing wrong with choosing a rape victim because she is Asian.
In Spokane, Washington, two white men and a woman specifically hunted random Japanese
women in an elaborately planned scheme to kidnap, rape, sodomize, torture and videotapethem. Their motivation? According to police reports, the rapists had a sexual "fantasy" and"fixation" about young Japanese women, who they believed were "submissive." (The very samebeliefs so blatantly bandied about by Gawker and some of its readers.)
During a one month period in Autumn 2000, the predators abducted five Japanese exchange
students, ranging from age 18 to 20. Motivated by their sexual biases about Asian women, allthree used both their bodies and objects to repeatedly rape - vaginally, anally and orally -- twoof the young women over a seven hour ordeal.
In Spokane, one of the attackers immediately confessed to searching only for Japanese
women to torture and rape -- and eventually all pled guilty and were convicted. It clearly was aracially-motivated criminal case. The victims also believed they were attacked because of theirrace, the prosecutor told me.
What is astonishing, however, is that the district attorney failed to bring an additional charge
that would have tagged the crimes as motivated by racial bias. The police also neglected toreport the crime as a "hate crime," as demanded by the Justice Department to keep accuratestatistics of all bias-driven crimes. Although the attackers all received long sentences, animportant opportunity to raise the nation's consciousness was lost. We, as a society, were toldthat it's not a hate crime to rape an Asian woman because of her race.
In most states, as well as the federal justice system, crimes committed against a person
because of the victim's race, ethnicity or national origin (as well as other protected classes) areconsidered "hate crimes" or "bias crimes." Such a label doesn't always add much to a sentence,but this enhancement to the charges is considered an important public policy matter andreceives greater press coverage than standard crimes. A bias-driven crime is particularlyegregious, say the laws, and must be defined as such.
But in rapes and sexual assaults targeting Asian women, I can find no instance of
prosecutors or police bringing "hate crime" charges. It seems our society frowns on the rapeitself, but accepts the racial motivation behind it. Mainstream society simply is blind to this typeof racism. Indeed, the Spokane police detective handling the case wrote in an email to me: "Itwas felt that there was no hate involved instead he [the lead rapist] was very infatuated with the
Jaemin Kim: Asian Women: Rape And Hate Crimes
Another stunning case of authorities failing to properly apply a "bias crime" label to race-basedrapes took place in Los Angeles. In 2005, the LAPD arrested a serial rapist who explicitly onlysought Asian-looking women, particularly Koreans, to rape, assault and rob. The man, who wasnot Asian, was charged with attacking seven women. But the violence extended to more: 13known women were attacked, all Asian, and 11 of whom were of Korean descent. Policesuspected more women were raped, but didn't come forward.
Nobody in the police department or District Attorneys office would speak to me about theirinability to recognize the attacks as "hate crimes." A secretary in the press office, however,flat-out dismissed my queries by telling me the rapes were "not a hate crime."
I am Korean-American. If I was chosen to be raped because of that fact, I would expect theworld to recognize it as a hate crime -- regardless of whether the attacker said he selected mebecause of a racial "infatuation." When such a belief is used to rape, kill or beat, it is a hatecrime. The law is on my side; the law needs to be utilized.
In California, a "hate crime" includes a criminal act, such as rape, committed in whole, or in part,because of the victim's actual or perceived race or ethnicity. The bias need not be the onlymotivation. Hateful words, or epithets, are not required. Then why is this clear case of a rapisttargeting Korean women not prosecuted as a bias crime? Why weren't the Spokane rapesrecognized for their racist motivation?
The Associated Press reported on Jan. 2, 2009 that a "hate crime" label indeed accompaniedthe arrest of four people for gang-raping a woman in the San Francisco Bay Area. In that case,the attackers taunted the woman for being a lesbian, and the woman was raped shortly aftergetting out of a car that bore a rainbow gay pride sticker. The authorities' branding of that rapeas a "hate crime" stems from the attackers using epithets and slurs that showed their literalhatred against gays. This type of "proof" fits the widely-accepted model of "hate crime"evidence: a white gang spewing racist words as they run down a black person; or blackattackers yelling anti-Jewish words as they beat a Hasidic person.
The attackers in the L.A. and Spokane rape cases did not use typical "hate speech." But the
biggest obstacle to bias crime charges in those cases is that society at large thinks it benign tohold sexualized stereotypes about Asian women. The woeful abandonment of "hate crime"categorization when Asian women are sexually attacked comes from the mistaken belief thatweight should be attached to the attacker's claim to an "attraction" or "fetish" for the victim'sAsian race. There is a disconnect: while authorities do not see the "fetish" as an excuse for therape, they see it as an excuse from hate crime labeling. Like society at large, they fail to see thatthis is a form of racial discrimination.
Until we see a change in how these types of sexual attacks are perceived, Asian women in
particular remain vulnerable. Unlike any other racial group in America today, Asian womenroutinely are dehumanized in popular culture as sexualized, meek and voiceless objects. Thesevery stereotypes have led to violent attacks. Let's call it what it is: a hate crime.
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