Asian-American students at Virginia Tech reacted to news about the gunman’s identity with shock and a measure of anxiety about a possible backlash against them....Is this a realistic fear? There was notably little retaliation against Arabs (or Muslims) after 9/11, and that incident was not only much larger, it involved a group of people with a particular ethnicity/religion, who acted out of an ideology that they openly tied to their group characteristics. Americans deserve credit for making the important distinctions and not succumbing to bigotry.
Mr. Boaz, a resident adviser at Pritchard Hall, said many Korean-American students had left campus immediately. Parents of other Korean-American students were preparing to pick up their children on Tuesday afternoon and take them home.
Let's see what Margaret Cho -- who shares the murderer's name -- has to say on her blog:
I look at the shooter's expressionless face on the news and he looks so familiar, like he could be in my family. Just another one of us. But how can he be us when what he has done is so terrible? Here is where I can really envy white people because when white people do something that is inexplicably awful, so brutally and horribly wrong, nobody says – “do you think it is because he is white?” There are no headlines calling him the “White shooter." There is no mention of race because there is no thought in anyone's mind that his race had anything to do with his crime.Do Americans deserve this criticism? Is "so much attention is focused on the Asian-ness of the shooter"? If we want to avoid bigotry, let's also think about whether it's right to characterize Americans this way. But, of course, it is important not to look on this madman and imagine that he represents Koreans or -- more absurdly -- Asians. Even when a person is quite ordinary, we should resist thinking of him as being the way he is because of his group.
So much attention is focused on the Asian-ness of the shooter, how the Korean community is reacting to it, South Korea's careful condolences and cautiously expressed fear that it will somehow impact the South Korean population at large.
What is lost here is the grief. What is lost is the great, looming sadness that we should all feel over this. We lose our humanity to racism, time and time again.
Meanwhile, I'm not seeing a lot of attention paid to the murderer's Koreanness. On NPR this morning, they called him "the English student"! Get it? He was an English major, and attention is being paid to his writings -- which you can see here. Should we worry about bigotry and retaliation aimed at fiction writers who go in for violent fantasies? Or don't worry. Go to the movies. May I recommend "Grindhouse"?