Isla Vista1

Voices: Racism and Misogyny Fuel A California Tragedy

Candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting and stabbing attacks in Isla Vista, California. Image via The Associated Press.

Today, UC Santa Barbara will cancel classes to mourn George Chen, Katie Cooper, Cheng Yuan Hong, Chris Martinez, Weihan Wang, and Veronika Weiss, the six people whose deaths at the hands of a young biracial man — we will not print his full name in this space if we can help it — over the weekend brought sudden, needed attention to several particularly toxic strains of performative cis-masculinity.

But, while debates continue over the causes of the fatal attacks and the killer’s motivations, what cannot be argued anymore is that this is an outlier.

Driving that conversation were tags like #YesAllWomen and #YesAllWhiteWomen, and When Women Refuse, a tumblr created by activist Deanna Zandt to highlight other stories of men who felt so entitled to womens’ bodies and spaces that they responded with violence to their privilege being rebuffed.

Under the cut, we’ve compiled portions of some of the most informative analyses of the situation.

Editor’s Note: Trigger Warning for the subject matter.

On Monday, Wang’s bereft parents, Jinshuang “Jane” Liu and Charlie Wang spoke exclusively to NBC Bay Area before heading to Santa Barbara to be with the parents of the other slain victims.

“He was supposed to have come home for the summer soon,” Liu said, speaking from her doorstep, her words choked with emotion, her hands often covering her heart.

Liu said that her only child – a basketball player who graduated from Fremont Christian School and who was studying computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara – had already found another apartment and planned to move with his friends next semester.

“Normally, they don’t talk to each other,” she said of her son and Rodger. “They don’t have much interaction.”

Wang’s plan, his mother said, was to return to the Bay Area on June 12, head out on a family trip to Yellowstone National Park two days later, and celebrate his 21st birthday in July. He eventually wanted to start a business with his friends.

Wang’s mother said her son was very close with the other two young men stabbed in the apartment: 19-year-old George Chen and 20-year-old C.H., both of San Jose.

– Christie Smith and Lisa Fernandez, KNTV-TV

Rodger’s fixation on whiteness as the ultimate prize leads him to try to remake himself, asking his parents for permission to bleach his hair:

“I always envied and admired blonde-haired people, they always seemed so much more beautiful. My parents agreed to let me do it, and father took me to a hair salon on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills….Trevor was the first one to notice it, and he came up to me and patted my head, saying that it was very ‘cool.’ Well, that was exactly what I wanted. My new hair turned out to be quite a spectacle, and for a few days I got a hint of the attention and admiration I so craved.”

But his bleached hair soon loses its novelty, and Rodger once again finds himself on the outside looking in. He realizes that while he can never be—in his own words—a “normal fully-white” person, he can prove himself equal to or even superior than those who were born to that birthright, if only he “acquires” the right girlfriend: someone whiter, blonder, more beautiful than the girlfriends of his peers.

– Jeff Yang, Quartz

While he acknowledges that he is hapa and “beautiful,” what’s telling in this statement is how he frames his identity. He is “half white” not “half Asian.” He is “descended from British aristocracy”. No mention of his Asian roots. And if there were any doubt how he felt about “Asian men,” postings he left on the Puahate.com site makes it pretty clear. In one post, Rodger responded to an Asian male who asked if buying a certain brand of shows would help him attract women. Rodger responded by writing:

“Shoes won’t help you get white girls. White girls are disgusted by you, silly little Asian.”

– Philip, You Offend Me, You Offend My Family

Is there something new in the air? One BBC documentary asks if we’re seeing misogyny, sexism, or liberation. I have issues, of course, with the way it equates female objectification under the male gaze as “liberation”, as if to equate the myriad ways in which women do find themselves sexually liberated to women ultimately lying to themselves. But there is some really scary sh*t in here that needs to be taken seriously. When female sexual liberation looks exactly the same as male gaze objectification, and men are ultimately profiting from it, I too question if we’re really liberating ourselves. Does being a porn star, or burlesque performer, or glamour model, require a personal critique to be “liberated”?

Of course, liberation takes many forms. I’m a porn performer and inn many ways I find it liberating, though in other ways I do not. Financial security is a form of liberation. Feeling safe at work is a form of liberation. Accepting and loving your body is a form of liberation.

As long as we live in an imperialist capitalist patriarchy, liberation really only goes so far. We do the best we can with the tools we have.

– Kitty Stryker, Consent Culture

Martinez’s father gave a wrenching statement to the news media Saturday afternoon. His son was “a really great kid” whose “death has left our family lost and broken,” Richard Martinez said.

“Our family has a message for every parent out there: You don’t think it will happen to your child until it does,” the visibly emotional parent said, his voice rising to a shout in obvious agony.

“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the (National Rifle Association). They talk about gun rights — what about Chris’ right to live?” he continued. “When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say stop this madness, we don’t have to live like this? Too many have died. We should say to ourselves — not one more.”

The comment touched a nerve among many Americans, and it prompted the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to say the grieving father “got it exactly right.”

– Todd Leopold and Ashley Fantz, CNN

There will, of course, be talk over the next few days as to how we as a community can stop this kind of thing from happening in the future, whether it’s gun control laws or mental health awareness. But all I can really say today is that the level of friendship people have shown and the amount of love going around following last night is just unbelievable.

It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like this to remind us how important the people and relationships we have are, but we need to use this as a time to show each other that we’re not just contacts in a phone or friends on Facebook; we’re not just kids in class or people you see at the gym. We’re family. And now more than ever, we need to remind ourselves just how much we really do care about one another.

– Emile Nelson, The Daily Nexus