The Deep Roots of the Atlanta Murders in a Sick and Murderous System


March 22, 2021 |

On March 16, Robert Long, a 21-year-old white man, shot and killed six Asian women employed at Atlanta-area massage-parlor spas, along with two other non-Asian customers.

What we know so far of the accused killer’s motivation from credible news reports—that these women supposedly deserved and needed to be slaughtered to prevent him from “falling into sin”—points to the deep, widely spread and Christian-fascist-inspired hatred of women and the oppression and degradation of women that serves “as a social glue” for the entire society. And while there is not yet evidence of an explicit (openly stated) anti-Asian or anti-immigrant element in the accused killer’s motivations, there is the reality that he went out of his way to target these spas staffed by Asian women immigrants in the context of a marked increase of racist attacks against Asian immigrants nationally. Whatever the conscious intent, these sow terror among Asian people within the U.S.

While outrage and protest against anti-Asian violence has been building, this was a last straw for many people, driving them to protest the ways in which Asians have been singled out for violence, and the sick and pervasive ways in which the racist culture of America has objectified and dehumanized Asian women.

These protests are righteous, and the ways in which people of different nationalities are expressing outrage is important and should be strongly supported. But the fact is that protests alone will not change anything fundamental until the system that spawned this—the capitalist-imperialist system at the foundation of U.S. society—is overthrown.

Here’s why.

A “Lone Gunman” with 100s of Years of U.S. History at His Back

The killer may have been a “lone gunman,” but Long’s murderous crusade was driven by and served the long history and deeply intertwined reality of patriarchy and white supremacy in this system of capitalism-imperialism.

These bloody and tightly interwoven bonds go back to when Chinese laborers were worked to death to build the railroads that consolidated the “manifest destiny” of the U.S. across the continental West after the Civil War. The bonds go back to a long history of white-supremacist anti-Asian racism, from periodic lynchings and racist laws to outright imprisonment in concentration camps, with Long’s murderous rampage taking place at a time of marked increase in such racist attacks. The bonds go back to the degrading objectification, prostitution and enslavement of Asian women as “perks” for U.S. troops, from Vietnam to Korea to the Philippines, even while the U.S. was bombing and pillaging these countries, massacring civilians and raping women as part of imperialist domination, in the service of building up and defending the American empire itself. They go back to the patriarchy that underlies both the pervasive views of women as “sex objects” and the Christian fascist fanaticism amplifying this oppressive objectification, including in its sanctification of “the family” with traditionally gendered roles, forbidding sex outside heterosexual marriages, and casting violations as “sin”; the superexploitation of non-white immigrant labor, justified by racist mythology; the military horrors and the destruction of whole societies in the service of American political, economic and military domination of the “Third World” or “global South”; and the “social glue” of patriarchy to keep this system together: these are not “side effects,” easily cured by a few honeyed words and promises—or even reality—of a few reforms.

These have been and are integral to this system.

The Christian Fascist Madness of Unrestrained Patriarchy and Extreme Xenophobia

All this ugliness and horror was ramped up on steroids with the Christian-fascist Trump/Pence regime, with its core triad of white supremacy, misogyny (hatred of women stemming from patriarchy), and American chauvinism—which, again, were all products and manifestations of this system of capitalism-imperialism. Both the anti-Asian racism and the misogyny were explicitly fanned by Trump and the fascists, both in his election campaign and overall presidency and in particular in the last year. He aimed in part to shift blame for his inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to China, with slanders like “kung-flu,” but more strategically, this served larger U.S. imperialist interests in contention with China, as well as the xenophobic, anti-immigrant pillar of the overall fascist program. This was so widespread that Cherokee County Sheriff’s Captain Jay Baker, initially in charge of investigating these murders, had posted pictures of T-shirts on Facebook calling COVID-19 “IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA,” echoing Trump’s exaggerated and slanderous enunciation.

After Long committed these massacres at the Asian-run spas in the Atlanta area, he was reportedly on his way to Florida to continue his bloody vengeance against such places of “sin” when he was apprehended. Long belonged to a fundamentalist family and church affiliated with the Christian-fascist Southern Baptist denomination, with strict prohibitions of sex outside heterosexual marriage and transgressions as “sin.” In a 2018 video, Long cited the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son (who squanders wealth given him by his father on debauchery and “whores” but who has his position in the patriarchal family restored when he returns to his father and submits to him) as defining his life mission. In line with this, Long reportedly told police his murderous rampage was intended to stop these Asian women at the spas from “tempting” men, a perverse manifestation of Christian-fascist male-supremacist ideology.

In his New Year’s Statement: A New Year, The Urgent Need For A Radically New World—For The Emancipation Of All Humanity, Bob Avakian (BA), in discussing the profound changes in the position of women in society and the deep conflicts that have arisen within this system over those changes, points out that:

Religion, and especially religious fundamentalism, is a powerful factor promoting and reinforcing the patriarchal subordination of women, as well as other “traditional” forms of oppression. Here is an important insight by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, who grew up in a town in Iowa that was filled with white Christian fundamentalists (which she refers to as “white evangelicals”) who are the backbone of present-day American fascism. In her book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, she writes:

White evangelicals have pieced together this patchwork of issues, and a nostalgic commitment to rugged, aggressive, militant white masculinity serves as the thread binding them together into a coherent whole. A father’s rule in the home is inextricably linked to heroic leadership on the national stage, and the fate of the nation hinges on both. [emphasis added here]

This illustrates a fundamental point BA makes in that work, that:

Over the past several decades in the U.S. there have been profound changes in the situation of women and the relations within the family. In only one of ten families is there the “model” situation where the husband is the “sole breadwinner” and the wife a totally dependent “homemaker.” With these economic changes have come significant changes in attitudes and expectations—and very significant strains not only on the fabric of the family but of social relations more broadly…. The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances—this is a powderkeg in the U.S. today. It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms and through extremely violent means. The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement.

In light of Atlanta… think about this.

The Democrats: Different Bottle, Same Rotten Wine

In confronting all of this ugliness and horror, Biden flew to Atlanta to say that “our silence is complicity,” followed by Kamala Harris stating, “Racism is real in America. And it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism, too.” She added, “We will not stand by. We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs.”

This is a far cry from the hateful rhetoric of Trump, and there may be sighs of relief in some quarters. But as Avakian states in the New Year’s statement:

There is no question that many of the policies of the Biden/Harris administration will be different than the blatant atrocities of the Trump/Pence regime, and things will definitely “feel different” with Biden and Harris, but the way they will try to “unite the country”—in line with the interests and requirements of this system of capitalism-imperialism—is something that no decent person should want or be part of. [emphasis added]

Take one minute to think about the “track record” behind these Democrats’ easy, but empty, words of consolation and vows to change. It was Biden’s and Harris’s Democrats who dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was Biden’s and Harris’s Democrats who launched the wars and/or military coups in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia and elsewhere in Asia to defend and extend American empire—wars that took well over six million lives, tore up those societies, and served to create the huge networks of prostitution in those countries “servicing” first American soldiers and then any and all male “sex tourists.” These wars were inevitably accompanied by ramped-up chauvinist sentiments, racist dehumanization, outright attacks and often repression against people from that part of the world, or misperceived to be from that part of the world. It was Biden’s and Harris’s Democrats, like the Clinton and Obama administrations (of which Biden was vice president), who—along with Republican administrations and regimes—extended U.S. economic domination throughout Asia from the 1990s to now, building a network of sweatshops producing everything from sneakers to computers to cars at starvation-level wages. “We will always speak out,” they say now—yes, to obscure the real causes and the need to uproot those causes. They “signify” about Trump, while not even mentioning him by name, but refuse to mention and actively obscure exposure of the religious, especially Christian-fascist, roots of this violence and the fascist character of the whole lynch-mob atmosphere of the past period.

This is a profound reality—one that needs to be confronted by all decent people, even as they demand an end to racist, misogynist brutality and murder. Biden and Harris and other Democrats may “speak out” after these acts, but they cannot and will not call out or go to the roots, the underlying system that spawns this ugliness and horror, in outrage after outrage, in madness after madness, in unnecessary and intolerable suffering for the millions here and billions of humanity around the planet—for they, the Democrats, are part of the problem, rulers presiding over this system. Racism, xenophobia, and patriarchy are rooted in the foundations of this system. They are perpetuated and intensified daily by the workings of this system, whether under the form of overt and grotesque fascist forms, or beneath a “diverse” multi-cultural face on this system that will make shows of listening and empathy in the service of not only doing nothing about but continuing to reinforce the root causes.

Revolution—Nothing Less!

Ending these horrors—once and for all—requires nothing less than tearing them up by the roots. This requires overthrowing this system through an actual revolution, the most radical revolution in human history—and bringing into being the world envisioned in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America where, based on a radically different system, we can move decisively and collectively to uproot white supremacy and patriarchal oppression of women. As Avakian states:

The road to a better world is not, and will not be, an easy one—this cannot be accomplished without determined struggle and, yes, great sacrifice. But continuing on the current course, under the domination of this system of capitalism-imperialism, means a continuation of the horrors already being perpetrated in the world today, the far worse horrors that are immediately threatening, and the very real existential danger that is increasingly looming.