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For Asian American women, sexism and racism can't be separated, expert says

Racism, sexualization of Asian American women
Racism, sexualization of Asian American women... 06:03

While authorities said the accused gunman in Tuesday's deadly shooting spree attributed the killings to a purported sexual addiction and not racism, the leader of an Asian American group said that doesn't make sense to most people in her community. "There is a long arc of racialized sexism, racialized misogyny that's directed at Asian American women that's at play, and so you cannot separate the two in the incident that took place in Atlanta," Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

Six of the eight people killed in the rampage at three Atlanta-area spas were Asian women. The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with eight counts of murder, and police said it was too early to say whether the shootings were hate crimes.

Captain's comment blasted after spa shootings... 03:38

Choimorrow said it's common for Asian American women to experience racism with a sexual undertone, citing a 19th century U.S. law. The Page Act effectively barred Chinese women from entering the U.S. because they were assumed to be prostitutes or otherwise immoral, Diane Fujino, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said on CBSN's "Red & Blue" Wednesday.

"So off the bat, you know," Choimorrow said, "our existence in this country has always been framed around the hypersexualization of our bodies and our looks."

Rise in hate incidents against Asian American... 05:54

She shared her own experience of sexual harassment after she immigrated to the U.S. when she was 18.

"I would often get stopped by men who would ask me, 'Are you Korean?'" Choimorrow said, "and then if I would say yes, then they would, you know, launch into, you know, some Korean phrase they know and then how much they love Korea and, you know, they served in the military and how I remind them of some girlfriend they had and then say something really inappropriate."

Choimorrow hopes the conversations stemming from the shootings make people more aware of how Asian American women are treated in the U.S.

"Asian American women have been long invisible in this society," she said. "… we're being told this is not a racist incident. It is a racist incident because of the way Asian American women experience racism in our country."

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