The racist stabbing attack in Bloomington is what you get when politicians try to out-hawk each other on China
On January 11, 56-year-old Billie R. Davis stabbed an 18-year-old Indiana University student of Asian descent multiple times in the head while they were waiting for the doors of a bus to open in Bloomington, Indiana.Davis left no doubt that her attack was racially motivated, telling police that it was “due to [the victim] being Chinese” and that she committed the attack because it would mean “one less person to blow up our country.”This Bloomington student isn’t alone – but it does demonstrate the sinister nature of how American foreign policy, and the perception of China that is blasted constantly on American media, can create the conditions for such sinister acts. According to the organization Stop AAPI Hate, the group documented over 11,400 self-reported anti-AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) hate incidents. The most recent attack on America’s Asian community occurred in Monterey Park, California on Saturday at a dance studio, ahead of Lunar New Year, where ten people were killed and another ten injured. While the perpetrator was found dead and identified as an Asian man of presumably Vietnamese descent – no motive has been established and hate hasn’t been ruled out. It’s too early to speculate on this incident given the circumstances.The Bloomington incident, however, was so conspicuously hateful that it even prompted the White House to respond. On January 17, the administration of President Joe Biden even released the first-ever National Strategy to Advance Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Communities. According to a press release, the initiative will involve over 32 federal agencies, including all 15 executive departments in the president’s cabinet.
That press release went on to rattle off an array of initiatives by the administration and federal authorities. But it left out one crucial detail: It didn’t announce any significant shift in language vis-a-vis China. A 180 turn of the administration’s China policy is, of course, both impossible and beyond the scope of this strategy – but it ignores the fact that the divisive rhetoric about being ‘tough on China’ creates a situation where politicians try to beat each other to the punch on who’s more anti-China.Democrats and Republicans agree that China is an evil, dastardly country that wants to end our way of life – even though it would be no exaggeration to say that our way of life is created in China. They both continue to pass bipartisan legislation that is aimed against Beijing, they keep upping military spending bent on potential military confrontation and even the most progressive American can’t give China some due credit on, for instance, infrastructure, poverty alleviation, or green technology. This deranged enmity against one country translates to a pernicious hatred against one people (though we don’t know if the victim in Bloomington was actually of Chinese descent). That’s why we see spikes in crimes against our Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The more the US ramps up its foreign policy against China, the more hate crimes follow. In our country, it is clearly unacceptable to play up racist tropes about Black people, Latinos, and others. But somehow, some people genuinely believe that every Asian person wants to see the downfall of the United States of America. Why? Because that’s what is shown in the media. If you happen to be a regular Fox News viewer, you’d believe that China – and Chinese people, who blindly follow their government, apparently – want to kill every American. This narrative has to end. Without a change in how we approach the subject of competition with China, Asian communities in the United States will never be safe. They will be a canary in the coal mine for what the military is seething to do in live combat against the Chinese. And I don’t mean any hyperbole when writing this given the context of America’s well-documented war crimes.
Some critics might argue that what I’m saying is going too far; that it’s possible to hate a country’s government but not its people. When has that ever been the case, at least in the context of a Western society obsessed with racial classification? When have our geopolitical adversaries not been caricatured bogeymen and their citizens easy targets for our collective resentment? It’s hard to think of an example.At the same time, some have argued that if the Chinese government would have simply apologized for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant economic damage in the West that maybe people would be more forgiving. But China has nothing to apologize for – and if it did, that would be an admission of guilt that would fuel even more hatred against Asian people. And let’s not even get into how blaming China for attacks on America’s Asian community makes a total of zero sense.To sum it up, things need to change. And they need to change now. The details of the attack against that Bloomington student are absolutely horrendous. The words of the suspect are even more terrifying. The blame for this rests entirely on the right-wing media and American foreign policy, which continues to provide a nest for the most violent and inhumane perspectives imaginable.