What's Tony Thinking

The Atlanta Shootings: Racism May Not Explain It


A young man, just 21, has been arrested in the shootings and for the murders of eight people at massage parlors in the Atlanta area. Six of victims were Asian.

He told authorities that the motivation for his crimes was not racial. It was about addiction, his sexual addiction. His tragically misguided attempt to wipe out what had made his life unbearable. But instead of facing the enemy inside himself, he saw the enemy as outside, in those who may have been sex workers, as well as being Asian.

I have been struck by the reporting I’ve heard and read about his alleged crimes thus far, as well as by the statements of various elected officials.

There’s a brief acknowledgement that the motivations for the murders are “not yet fully established,” before a long focus on anti-Asian racism, which often segues into pointing the finger at Donald Trump and his descriptions of COVID as “the Chinese Virus,” and “Kung Flu.” Racist hatred is the issue. Trump is the cause. This is what we’re dealing with here. It is all about the toxic culture of “white supremacy” that explains everything about America.

Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the increase, that much seems clear. Exactly what’s going on, what explains it, does not seem entirely clear. We’re told the pandemic and Trump are to blame. Whatever is going on, the fear and apprehension in Asia-Americans communities is real and must be addressed. Racially motivated hate crimes are reprehensible.

Maybe this is where the explanation and the blame lie for the murderous rampage in Atlanta this week.

But I wonder . . .  It does seem, at this moment, that the recourse to race as the primary interpretative lens and racism as the primary explanation — the “answer,” so to speak, for all our evils — may overshadow realities that are complicated or don’t easily fit the prevailing narrative.

Consider taking the accused man at his word.

He said that he suffers from “sex addiction.” Sexual addiction, while dismissed by some, is a real thing. Moreover, we live in a society that vacillates between sexual libertinism, on one hand, and a quite strict code of conduct and behavior on the other.

On top of that confusion, the porn industry in the U.S., by some estimates, makes more money that the NBA, Hollywood, the NFL or Netflix. To say “porn is a big business” is a vast understatement.

Porn’s reach and its effects on children, teens and adults is a very big deal — but not one that is much looked at or talked about in our society.

We’re focused, right now, on race and racism. About time. Long overdue. But we have to be careful that we don’t adjust the facts to the narrative we prefer. We have to be careful that we don’t shoehorn everything into one explanatory framework, thus distorting a more complex reality.

And we have to face up to the problems of sexually dis-ordered society and the many broken lives which are its consequence.


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