On Tuesday, a gunman targeted three massage parlors in the Atlanta area, killing eight people and wounding one more. Police arrested a suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who confessed to the shooting, claiming he had been motivated by a sexual addiction and aimed to remove “temptation.” However, since six of the eight victims were Asian American women, leftist commentators, Democrats, and legacy media outlets rushed to the conclusion that Long’s true motive was anti-Asian hatred tracing back to “white supremacy.” Many noted the rise in anti-Asian harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ultimate verdict remains out, but most of the evidence weighs in against the leftist narrative, as Andrew Sullivan noted.
“We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case,” Sullivan wrote.
Long’s confession is not definitive, but various pieces of evidence back it up. The New York Times reported that Long’s friends and family confirmed his narrative. The Washington Post cited evidence of Long’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. The suspect reportedly frequented at least two of the massage parlors he attacked. His former roommates said Long chose the parlors because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. The Times even confirmed that Long had gone to rehab for sexual impulses and that he next planned to target “a business tied to the pornography industry.”
Long didn’t just kill Asian women — two of his other victims were white, a man and a woman. He also injured a Latino.
None of this adds up to anti-Asian sentiment and none of it directly connects to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems Long targeted the parlors because he had previously gone there for sex. If he had associated Asian Americans with COVID-19, why would he have exposed himself to the virus by having sex with Asian women at massage parlors?
Some evidence may come to light revealing racist motives on Long’s part, but the weight of the evidence leans in the opposite direction of the Left’s narrative. Sullivan noted that Korean media circulated a rumor that Long conveniently cried, “I want to kill all Asians!” before the shootings, but no source has confirmed this rumor.
Yet none of this seemed to matter to the Democrats, leftist commentators, or the legacy media. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) tweeted, “We mourn those killed last night in Atlanta with you. We will dismantle white supremacy with you.” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) shared a video of the police reporting Long’s confession, and added, “too many police in our country are more concerned with protecting white supremacy than serving the communities that pay their salaries.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the founder of The 1619 Project, declared, “Last night’s shooting and the appalling rise in anti-Asian violence stem from a sick society where nationalism has been stoked and normalized.” Ibram X. Kendi, a leading author in the “anti-racist” movement, tweeted, “Locking arms with Asian Americans facing this lethal wave of anti-Asian terror. Their struggle is my struggle. Our struggle is against racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”
The New York Times ran one story about the facts of the shooting, and nine separate stories — nine! — claiming it was an anti-Asian hate crime, fueled by white supremacy and/or misogyny. The Washington Post, not to be outdone, ran no fewer than sixteen separate stories on the horrific shooting as if it had been an anti–Asian white supremacist hate crime. Even so, one of the Post‘s columnists denounced the paper’s own reporting of law enforcement’s version of events, because it distracted from the “real” motives.
According to the Left’s narrative, the killer’s stated intent doesn’t really matter. According to Marxist critical race theory, a hidden racism secretly controls American society and any racial disparity is ipso facto proof of “institutional racism,” regardless of civil rights laws explicitly forbidding such discrimination. As Andrew Sullivan explained, Long’s “intentions are not material. He is merely a vehicle for the structural oppressive forces critical theorists believe in.”
Critical theorists checked the identity of the victims and the identity of the shooter, then forced the event into their narrative. As Sullivan noted, “if the victims are white, they don’t really count. Everything in America is driven by white supremacist hate of some sort or other. You can jam any fact, any phenomenon, into this rubric in order to explain it.”
Critical race theory acts as a grand conspiracy theory, minimizing or erasing the motives of individual actors in order to weaponize tragedies like this one. Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki have already linked this horrific mass murder — apparently inspired by an evil twisting of religious zeal — to demonize former President Donald Trump and his COVID-19 rhetoric.
None of this is to deny the very real animus Asian Americans face. Inspired in part by critical theory, leftist elites actively discriminate against Asian Americans in higher education and attempt to dismantle the merit-based schools where Asian Americans succeed.
The Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York (CACAGNY) declared that “Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a hateful, divisive, manipulative fraud. One way or another, CRT wants to get rid of too many Asians in good schools. Asians are over-represented. CRT is today’s Chinese Exclusion Act. CRT is the real hate crime against Asians” (emphasis original).
The National Crime Victimization Survey noted that the rate of violent crime against Asians increased from 8.2 per 1,000 persons over age 11 to 16.2 per 1,000 from 2015 to 2018. Importantly, Asian Americans have a relatively higher chance of becoming victimized by non-white offenders (25.2 percent versus 1.0 percent for black Americans and 18.9 percent for Hispanics). Whites commit 24 percent of violence against Asian Americans, while fellow Asian Americans commit 24 percent of the violence against them, Hispanics commit 7 percent of it, and black Americans commit 27.5 percent of the violence.
While all Americans should loudly condemn harassment and violent attacks against our Asian neighbors, as against anyone of any race, these numbers don’t exactly paint a picture of “white supremacy.” In fact, the very ideology that warns of “white supremacy” behind every corner is hostile to the success of Asian Americans.
Influenced by that very ideology, Democrats, commentators, and legacy media outlets seem certain they know the true motives of the shooter better than the shooter does himself.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.