A 2019 clip of poet and author Ocean Vuong breaking down the connection between toxic masculinity and violence is making the rounds on social media following the devastating mass shooting at several Atlanta spas and other increases in anti-Asian hate crimes.
The clip, which shows Vuong, a 2019 Out100 honoree, appearing on Late Night With Seth Meyers to talk about his debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, features a timely segment discussing one reason men might feel compelled towards violence.
“You make a really interesting observation about how in the English language, words of destruction are used to define success, particularly from the male perspective, can you speak about that for a minute,” Meyers asked Vuong after talking about his book and how he got his name.
“In this culture we celebrate boys through the lexicon of violence,” Vuong replied. “‘You're killing it,’ you’re making a killing,’ ‘smash them,’ ‘blow them up,’ ‘you went into that game guns blazing,’ and I think it’s worth it to ask the question what happens to our men and boys when the only way they can valuate themselves is through the lexicon of death and destruction?”
He continued, saying “I think when they see themselves as only worthwhile when they are capable of destroying things, it’s inevitable that we arrive at a masculinity that is toxic.”
The comments are hitting especially hard right now. On Tuesday, 21-year-old Robert Long went into three different Asian-owned spas in the Atlanta area and shot and murdered eight people. Six of the eight people killed were of Asian descent. This follows reports of anti-Asian hate incidents rising significantly.
Anti-Asian sentiments have been stoked by the Republican party and former President Trump, when he referred to the current global pandemic as the “kung flu” and blamed China for causing it. This sort of rhetoric that has been repeated and spread by many on the right.
Jay Baker, an official from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is under fire after he said of the shooter, “he was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.” Many saw the comments as offering excuses for Long and diminishing the damage that he did.
Shortly after the briefing where Baker made those comments, people found Facebook posts he made last year which show him buying a t-shirt that called the pandemic an “imported virus from chy-na.”
Anti-Asian racism isn't the only issue behind the shooting, as official say the suspect has a sex addiction and targeted the spas in order to “take out that temptation.”
What all of these excuses stack up to is exactly what Vuong was talking aboutL A young man grew increasingly angry, directed his hate at women and people of color, and used violence, the only language he knows, to express that anger.