We write on behalf of BALIF, as the nation’s oldest LGBTQIA+ bar association, to express our rage, grief, and condolences for the victims and their families affected by the shootings on March 16, 2021 in the Atlanta area at three massage parlors, the Gold Massage Spa, Young’s Asian Massage, and Aroma Therapy Spa. As of this writing, an FBI Director and Georgia Sheriff stated that the shootings do not appear to be racially motivated. However, of the eight people murdered on Tuesday, six were of Asian descent, and seven were women. Not only was race a factor, but gender and an anti-sex work animus played a role as well. Organizations like Red Canary Song, a grassroots Chinese massage parlor worker coalition, have eloquently written about how to radically heal and mourn, and we want to uplift those voices in solidarity with the AAPI community and affirm BALIF’s commitment to work towards for a future in which low-wage workers, Asian and Asian-Pacific American/Asian-Pacific Islanders (AAPI) people, sex workers, and women are protected and respected to allow them to peacefully labor, prosper, and survive.
Much has been said about stopping AAPI hate following this tragedy, and daily incidents of brutal violence against Asian elders in the Bay Area continue to come to light, coupled with the exponential increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community since the start of the pandemic. These stories hit home for us, our families and friends, and our broader communities.
Esther K., a co-director of Red Canary Song, recently said in a Guardian article, “Removing the anti-sex-work component really removes the crux of what this specific kind of racism is about: the fetishization of Asian women’s bodies, the objectification of their bodies and the assumption that Asian women are obviously going to be providing sexual services at massage parlors,” and “the conflation of massage parlors and sex workers without any nuance is very specific to anti-Asian racism against Asian women.” Due to sexist racialized perceptions of Asian women, especially those engaged in vulnerable, low-wage work, Asian massage workers are harmed by the criminalization of sex work, regardless of whether they engage in it themselves.
As a call to action, please consider signing up for the Bay Area Workers Support (BAWS), Attorney Referral Network to offer legal help to support sex workers. BAWS welcomes any sex worker allied attorneys in any field and experience level. If you are interested in being on this referral list please fill out the form or you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this project. This Sunday, GAPA is coordinating a rally and march beginning at Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco at 11:00am. Please follow the event on Facebook for more information. For more AAPI Anti-Hate Community Resources, please check out our BALIF Community Forum.
BALIF supports the AAPI community in condemning these heinous acts that occurred on March 16, 2021. If you are an ally, please educate yourself and others. Look out for those in the AAPI community, train yourselves, and be there for others. We ask you to all be gentle to yourselves, and give yourself some space and breaks to process, grieve, reflect, and express your anger.