Thursday, May 19, 2022

Race and Politics in mass shooting at OC Taiwanese Presybterian Church

As reported by  Bill Ong Hing and KJ for the ImmigrationProf blog, white nationalism can lead to violence and racially motivated crimes. Beyond the Buffalo shooting they describe, a second hate crime occured the same weekend in a Taiwanese Presbyterian church. David Chou, a Chinese-American US citizen, drove to Orange County, California and engaged in a mass shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian church that killed and critically injured mostly elderly, Taiwanese churchgoers.

According to authorities, he is from Las Vegas and drove for hours to the Laguna Woods retirement community where the Geneva Presbyterian Church hosts multiple services, including the Taiwanese service in question. He spent a social hour mingling with about 40 attendees and then executived his destructive plan. Chou chained the doors and put super glue in the keyholes before opening fire. In the ensuing chaos, parishioner Dr. John Cheng tackled him, allowing other parishioners to tie him up with extension cords. Cheng died and five people were wounded: four Asian men (ages 66, 75, 82 and 92) and an Asian woman (86-years old). Chou was booked on suspicion of murder and attempted murder; he was jailed on $1 million bail. 

The murder is being investigated as a federal hate crime, but for the most part, it is being reported by mainstream media as politically-motivated rather than racially motivated. What's the difference between this hate crime and the hate crime waged by a white nationalist against Black shoppers in Buffalo that happened the same weekend? Why, like the mass killing of Asian women in Atlanta one year ago, is there a reluctance to examine crimes against Asian Americans, which have risen during COVID-19, as racially-motivated?

For some additional context, China/Taiwan relations have a complicated history and have grown more tense since the Russian invasion of Ukraine has overtaken global attention. Asian American intergroup differences and the role they play in panethnic and racial categorization is discussed in the seminal work by Yen Le Espiritu. The intermingling of race and religion in the Taiwanese Presbyterian church, and its support for Taiwanese independence from China, is studied by Caroline Chen


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