The Department of History strongly condemns the recent acts of gendered racialized violence in Georgia that ended in the killing of eight individuals, including six Asian American women. The horrendous attack in Georgia comes at a time of rising violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, bolstered by the racist rhetoric that erroneously tied the COVID-19 virus to sections of this community. These killings can also not be separated from the histories and social realities that not only perpetuate anti-Asian hatred, but also dehumanize, fetishize, and objectify AAPI women.
As historians, we recognize this mass killing as the latest instance of a persistent tradition of violence against Asian Americans—one that yet again followed a sustained onslaught of collective libel. In the nineteenth century, nativist politicians and publishers whipped up public anger against Chinese people, scapegoating them for economic instability and disease outbreaks even though they made up only a tiny percentage of the nation’s population and were no more infectious than anybody else. This led not only to the immigration prohibitions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 but also to scores of violent expulsions and killings of Asian people—sometimes by individuals but more often by mobs of white people who attacked Chinatowns and murdered their residents indiscriminately. These kinds of racial exclusions and incidents lasted for nearly a century more, and included everything from racial assaults and murders to alien land laws to the government relocation of entire communities and nationalities, most notably in the form of Japanese internment. Meanwhile, U.S. immigration law deemed most Asians racially ineligible to citizenship until the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952; and until the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, racist nationality quotas made it impossible for the vast majority of people born in Asia to legally immigrate to the United States. Even today, Asian Americans are repeatedly treated like permanent foreigners, outsiders who don’t really belong, citizens who are still told to go back where they came from.
We stand in solidarity and outrage with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and pledge to continue fighting racism and misogyny in all of its forms, in our classrooms, institutions, and communities. This relentless violence must stop.