During a hearing on the increasing discrimination and violence against Asian Americans in the House on Thursday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) suggested that lynching was how justice can be carried out for the families of the Asian women who were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia.
In his testimony, Roy equated the white man who murdered eight people, including six Asian women in a racist murder spree on Tuesday, to immigrants in the south who he claims are “absolutely decimating” U.S. cities, and also to protesters in last summer’s Black Lives Matter uprisings who may have damaged property while advocating for racial justice.
Roy then suggests that the groups of people he listed deserve “justice” the way he defines it: “There’s old sayings in Texas about — find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree.” Roy then went on to say, “You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys, that’s what we believe.”
“There’s old sayings in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously, & we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys.” — here’s Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) glorifying lynchings during hearing on violence against Asian-Americans pic.twitter.com/uy5irfmJCo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 18, 2021
Roy immediately faced criticism for his statements, with many pointing out that what he’s describing isn’t a real form of restorative justice. “No, that’s just American lynching,” said Cornell Williams Brooks on Twitter, Harvard professor and former CEO of the NAACP. “Rep. Roy, don’t dip your rhetoric in the blood of racial trauma.”
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Roy went on to complain, “My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys.”
Following which, he went on a rant about the Chinese government, its treatment of the Uighurs, and holding China responsible for the coronavirus pandemic, while repeatedly using the disparaging phrase “ChiComs,” popularized by the virulently racist late talk show host Rush Limbaugh. He displayed printouts of screenshots and evidence that he believed showed the extent of the Chinese government’s responsibility for the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m not going to be afraid of saying I oppose the ChiComs,” said Roy during the hearing. “And when we say things like that, talking about that, we shouldn’t be worried about having a committee of members of Congress policing our rhetoric because some evil doers go engage in some evil activity as occurred in Atlanta, Georgia.”
Blaming the Chinese government for COVID and extending that blame to Asian Americans is exactly what members of Congress and the Asian community have been speaking out against for the past year, and especially in the wake of Tuesday’s attack.
This sort of blaming and inflamed rhetoric that Roy is so afraid to have taken away from him is, advocates say, partially responsible for a precipitous rise in anti-Asian incidents, including the murder of a Thai man in San Francisco, during the pandemic. On Wednesday, the group Stop AAPI Hate released their newest report showing nearly 3,800 documented incidents expressing anti-Asian hate like verbal harassment and physical assault over the past year. Women, in particular, suffered most of those attacks.
Jay Baker, a Georgia sheriff’s spokesperson who had chalked up the Atlanta shooter’s motive to his having had “a bad day,” came under fire on Wednesday when reporters discovered that he, too, had perpetuated the idea that Chinese people were responsible for the pandemic. Last year, on Facebook, Baker shared a picture of a T-shirt he was promoting that said, “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”
The fact that the hearing was held in part to discuss and condemn this sort of racist rhetoric was apparently lost on Congressman Roy who spent a majority of his five minutes perpetuating it. Roy’s words elicited an emotional response from Rep. Grace Meng (D-New York) during the hearing.
Comments like Roy’s, Meng said, blaming the Chinese government for the pandemic are “putting a bull’s eye on the backs of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents and on our kids,” Meng said. “This hearing was to address the hurt and pain of our community and to find solutions. We will not let you take our voice away from us.”
Some observers like Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) pointed out that Roy’s celebrating lynching as a form of justice flies in the face of the fact that lynching has been historically used as a weapon against marginalized groups. One of the worst mass lynchings in U.S. history was against Asian Americans: In 1871, a mob of an estimated 500 white people rounded up a group of Chinese men and one child and hanged them on gallows erected in downtown Los Angeles.