To use the word “surprised” in this instance would be a total lie.
The Georgia sheriff’s official who faced criticism over downplaying Robert Aaron Long‘s deadly, racist attack on the Asian-American community, was discovered to have his own racist notions of the AAPI.
In two separate Facebook posts last year, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker captioned a photo of a shirt that read, “COVID-19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.” The font used on the shirt uses the same font as the Corona beer label.
“Love my shirt,” Baker captioned an April 2020 post. “Get yours while they last.”
The shirt also refers back to Trump’s pronunciation of the word China, the same individual who called the COVID-19 pandemic the “China virus,” on the night of the murders, and who also described it as “Kung flu.”
According to Buzzfeed, after the outlet reached out to Baker for comment, the Facebook post was taken down.
Baker went viral on Wednesday after he held a press conference where he did anything but acknowledge Tuesday night’s attack for what it was: an overt display of white, domestic terrorism. Baker described the shooter as a troubled person facing a sex addiction, who merely “had a bad day.”
“It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate. He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did,” Baker said.
In reality Baker was harboring misogynistic ideals towards women, Asian women specifically, and ventured off to murder as a way to stop his urges from happening. Police say that Long intended to travel further south in the name of violence.
Baker’s description of the shooter also speaks to the force of white supremacy by denying the fact that Long murdered eight people, including six Asian-American women, at three Asian-owned massage parlors in the Atlanta area.
Baker was not the only individual complicit in this reframing. A segment of Fox News used Long’s high school photo instead of his mug shot. And during Wednesday’s presser, officials spoke of how Long’s upbringings in a devout Christian household.
Social media users threw their hands up in horror at law enforcement’s choice to reframe the narrative, evoking further violence on the community Long targeted.
Because of Georgia’s gun laws, Long was able to purchase a firearm on the same day as the shootings because the state does not require a waiting period for gun sales. If you pass a background check, you are immediately able to purchase a firearm.
Prior to Tuesday’s shooting, advocacy groups continued to spread awareness due to the lack of attention towards the targeted violence.
The organization Stop AAPI Hate released a report documenting that nearly 3,800 reported hate incidents targeting the AAPI community occurred within the last year. Most of this is largely because of the framing around COVID-19, its origins and the continued use of flippant, racist slurs like “China virus,” and “Kung flu.”
As a result of Tuesday’s shootings police departments in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles announced they were ramping up police presence in Asian neighborhoods to prevent another targeted hate crime from occurring.
However, the approach is complex and layered, especially when said individuals who are employed to protect and serve, harbor violent and racist attitudes towards the same communities they work in.
Baker would be a shining example.