Originally posted on Facebook on March 18, 2021.
yes there will probably be a longer essay forthcoming but until then:
i see a lot of folks responding to the shooter’s claim that his murderous rampage was about sex with “no, it’s about race.”
and that’s not wrong, but it’s also not at all a contradiction to what he’s saying. “i killed them because they were sex workers” is not, in fact, a defense against racism: it is an *admission* of it.
sex work is a racialized category. full stop. it is racialized because sex workers are disproportionately women, femmes, and trans people of color; and it is criminalized for the exact same reason. it relies on vulnerable women, femmes, and trans people for labor, and it keeps them vulnerable by this same labor.
we don’t need to hem and haw about whether or not it’s appropriate to use the term ‘sex worker’ here. we’re precious about this shit because white feminism and white femininity have constructed our entire narrative around the question of whether or not sex work is “empowering,” and because white femininity itself is entirely constructed in opposition to the white supremacist hypersexualization of women of color which naturalizes them as sex workers (and white women as innocents). but like: who gives a fuck about empowerment? it doesn’t really matter whether individual sex workers “feel” empowered. it matters whether or not all sex workers have the actual, literal, material power to do their jobs with dignity and autonomy, at a fair wage, and free from violence, including murderous goddamn rampages.
and we can’t get to that place without acknowledging and overcoming racism, not as something incidental to the unsafety of sex work, but as one of its central tenets. and the inverse is true, too: we can’t undo ‘model minority’ myths and racist respectability politics if we’re too afraid to name the lived circumstances which led to these particular women being targeted.
squeamishness about how these women earned their livelihoods doesn’t stop asian hate. it just invisibilizes violence, and it lets racism flourish.