I’m a Scholar of Religion. Here’s What I See in the Atlanta Shootings.

Did racism or theology or gender motivate the shootings in Georgia? All of the above.

By Mihee Kim-Kort

Ms. Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian minister and a doctoral candidate in religious studies.March 24, 2021

“When news about the Atlanta killings broke, I saw in Korean sources first that six of the dead were Asian women, four of Korean descent. I didn’t yet know their names; I mourned them as Daughter, Big Sister, Mother, Aunt.

In Korean, we don’t often call each other by given names. As I’m the eldest child in the family, for as long as I can remember, my mother and father have called each other “mi-omma” (“Mihee’s mother”) and “mi-appa”(“Mihee’s father”). As a child I asked my parents why we did this. They explained that who we are is inseparable from who loves us and whom we love.” . . .

” . . . But fear is not so easily uprooted, and shame is not limited to one culture or religion. The fear of temptation the killer is reported to have had was born decades before his birth. Absolute moral ideals of virginity or marital sex have long been linked to conservative white Christian attempts at what is sometimes called “sexual containment” or more popularly known as purity culture. This contributed to a theology that taught the salvific power of marital sex (as well as a critique of extramarital sex). Though more and more people of faith have questioned the psychological impact of purity culture, shame around sex persists. The Asian women murdered in Atlanta were an explicit threat to the purported ideal; their perceived entanglement with sex work justified this violence.

According to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that has been tracking anti-Asian hate crimes, there have been at least 3,800 reported incidents of anti-Asian violence since March 2020. Still I hear over and over: “I just don’t see you as Asian.” Proximity to whiteness is seen as our saving grace, but we are still dying.

Remembering is one way to resist erasure. Even if it feels otherwise, we have the power to see and we have the voice to speak, even if we struggle with the words. There are other ways we show our love, and that’s by our names. Those we lost: Xiaojie Tan, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, Daoyou Feng, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Hyun-Jung Grant, Yong Ae Yue, Suncha Kim. All our names. Sister, daughter, mother, cousin, aunt, grandmother, child of God.” -30-