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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What The Massacre at Virginia Tech Says Of Us As A Nation

Like many things I post here on my blog, I received the below article from an organization with which I work or somehow am connected to by a degree or more of separation. In this case, the email came to me from NCRR (thank you). As I have stated numerous times in prior posts, the Japanese community came out forcefully immediately following 911 to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters to protect them against the onslaught of discrimination following 911. No one knows more how America can turn on its' own citizens than the Japanese who were interred during WWII with the blessings of Executive Order 9066. In turn, various Asian organizations also stand shoulder to shoulder with each other when it comes to discrimination against Asians in general and others stand with THEM. The below article written addresses this discrimation towards Asians VERY well and addresses what some people might think is NOT discrimination, that is when they lable an entire ethnicity as successful for some inate unknown reason. THIS form of discrimiation ultimately results in such statements as "Yep, I bet he is an Asain" (referring to some very successful student for example) or, "I need a tutor, gotta get an Asain math wizard" Why do I say this? Because those very same people saying this say also that Asians are not "well-rounded Americans because all they do is study"

ENOUGH ALREADY. Yesterday I also received an email (which for the life of me disappeared when I hit the'compact emails' button last evening) which said that a Korean organization here in LA had alreaddy received several crank racist calls after it became known that the assailant at Virginia Tech was South Korean by nationality. Want to say racism is not existant in America? GIVE ME A BREAK!!

Here's the bottom line in this situation folks:
Cho Seung-Hui suffered obviously from mental illness (no doubt mixed with American cultural violent tendencies, video games, violence in the media and even the violence of our own foreign policy-in other words, violence everywhere) and according to laws in place in the US, NOTHING can be done to an apparently mentally ill person unless they are a threat to themselves or others. BUT it doesn't become legally possible to force help on a mentally ill person until that person has committed an act in most cases. Following the Columbine massacre, there was a public outcry for schools at all levels to act pre-emptively when students were exhibiting strange and potentially harmful behavior. Incidents of overboard reactions were MANY and conversely many potentially violent actions were overted by prompt pre-emptive action.

At the college and university levels where students reside inhouse, schools everywhere scrambled to come up with policies addressing this issue which would not collide with the existing laws protecting the mentally ill. I tried to find Virginia Tech's policy but their website is inundated with information concerning this tragedy that has befallen them. I WAS able to find Harvard's policy which reads: (I venture to say VT's policy although is precisely the same, written by those knowing the laws concerning this matter)

College Responsibilities

"The College, in consultation with the affected student, determines whether an injured or ill student, or a student exhibiting disturbing behavior, may continue in residence, and whether he or she may return to residence after a short or longer-term absence due to accident, illness, or behavioral disturbance. In situations where a student's medical illness or behavioral disturbance raises concerns about the feasibility and appropriateness of his or her residence in a dormitory or House, the College values the expert advice of HUHS or BSC clinicians and AEO in reaching its informed decision on the student's remaining in or returning to the College residence."


As the victims names are released, we see that they came from many different backgrounds. This is NOT a case of an individual being a murderer because he happens to be South Korean, Asian, OR a green card holder and therefor suspect as an "alien". This is NOTHING but a case of a system which is not set up well to aid the mentally ill, OR deal with an unfolding mass murder on campus (witness the campus NOT being closed down after the first incident, the delayed emails, the English professor who referred him for guidance but could not force him to go or remove him from the school). This could happen anywhere by ANYONE and until we come to the realization that we as human beings are ALL equal and must stand together, scenes like Monday's massacre and other incidents will occur. In conclusion, this is NOT a time for division, but rather the time for us all to come together to mourn ALL of the victims equally as well as not blame an individual (or his ethnicity) but delve deeper into the entire system which is responsible for this and how we handle it as a nation.

Feel free to forward or post...
What May Come: Asian Americans and the Virginia Tech Shootings
Tamara K. Nopper
April 17, 2007
Like many, I was glued to the television news yesterday, keeping updated about the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech University . I was trying to deal with my own disgust and sadness, especially since my professional life as a graduate student and college instructor is tied to universities. And then the other shoe dropped. I found out from a friend that the news channel she was watching had reported the shooter as Asian. It has now been reported, after much confusion, that the shooter is Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean immigrant and Virginia Tech student.
As an Asian American woman, I am keenly aware that Asians are about to become a popular media topic if not the victims of physical backlash. Rarely have we gotten as much attention in the past ten years, except, perhaps, during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Since then Asians are seldom seen in the media except when one of us wins a golfing match, Woody Allen has sex, or Angelina Jolie adopts a kid.
I am not looking forward to the onslaught of media attention. If history truly does have clues about what will come, there may be several different ways we as Asian Americans will be talked about.
One, we will watch white media pundits and perhaps even sociologists explain what they understand as an “Asian” way of being. They will talk about how Asian males presumably have fragile “egos” and therefore are culturally prone to engage in kamikaze style violence. These statements will be embedded with racist tropes about Japanese military fighters during WWII or the Viet Cong—the crazy, calculating, and hidden Asian man who will fight to the death over presumably nothing.
In the process, the white media might actually ask Asian Americans our perspectives for a change. We will probably be expected to apologize in some way for the behavior of another Asian—something whites never have to collectively do when one of theirs engages in (mass) violence, which is often. And then some of us might succumb to the Orientalist logic of the media by eagerly promoting Asian Americans as real Americans and therefore unlike Asians overseas who presumably engage in culturally reprehensible behavior. In other words, if we get to talk at all, Asian Americans will be expected to interpret, explain, and distance themselves from other Asians just to get airtime.
Or perhaps the media will take the color-blind approach instead of a strictly eugenic one. The media might try to whitewash the situation and treat Cho as just another alienated middle-class suburban kid. In some ways this is already happening—hence the constant referrals to
the proximity of the shootings to the 8th anniversary of the Columbine killings. The media will repeat over and over words from a letter that Cho left behind speaking of “rich kids,” and “deceitful charlatans.” They will ask what’s going on in middle-class communities that encourage this type of violence. In the process they may never talk about the dirty little secret about middle-class assimilation: for non-whites, it does not always prevent racial alienation, rage, or depression. This may be surprising given that we are bombarded with constant images suggesting that racial harmony will exist once we are all middle-class. But for many of us who have achieved middle-class life, even if we may not openly admit it, alienation does not stop if you are not white.
But the white media, being as tricky as it is, may probably talk about Cho in ways that reflect a combination of both traditional eugenic and colorblind approaches. They will emphasize Cho’s ethnicity and economic background by wondering what would set off a hard-working, quiet, South Korean immigrant from a middle-class dry-cleaner-owning family. They will wonder why Cho would commit such acts of violence, which we expect from Middle Easterners and Muslims and those crazy Asians from overseas, but not from hard-working South Korean immigrants. They will promote Cho as “the model minority” who suddenly, for no reason, went crazy. Whereas eugenic approaches depicting Asians as crazy kamikazes or Viet Cong mercenaries emphasize Asian violence, the eugenic aspect of the model minority myth suggests that there is something about Asian Americans that makes them less prone to expressions of anger, rage, violence, or criminality. Indeed, we are not even seen as having legitimate reasons to have anger, let alone rage, hence the need to figure out what made this “quiet” student “snap.”
Given that the model minority myth is a white racist invention that elevates Asians over minority groups, Cho will be dissected as an anomaly among South Koreans who “are not prone” to violence—unlike Blacks who are racistly viewed as inherently violent or South Asians, Middle Easterners and Muslims who are viewed as potential terrorists. He will be talked about as acting “out of character” from the other “good South Koreans” who come here and quietly and dutifully work towards the American dream. Operating behind the scenes of course is a diplomatic relationship between the US and South Korea forged through bombs and military zones during the Korean War and expressed through the new free trade agreement negotiations between the countries. Indeed, even as South Korean diplomats express concern about racial backlash against Asians, they are quick to disown Cho in order to maintain the image of the respectable South Korean.
Whatever happens, Cho will become whoever the white media wants him to be and for whatever political platform it and legislators want to push. In the process, Asian Americans will, like other non-whites, be picked apart, dissected, and theorized by whites. As such, this is no different than any other day for Asian Americans. Only this time an Asian face will be on every television screen, internet search engine, and newspaper.
Tamara K. Nopper is an educator, writer, and activist living in Philadelphia . She can be reached at

Below is an excellent letter sent to the LA Times. Let's hope they post it, but if not, here it is:
There are MANY issues raised by this tragedy folks, and it is HIGH TIME for the discussion on ALL the issues involved to be opened and dealt with properly. Just as one thing leads to another, let us keep in our hearts and prayers and ACTIONS, that we are all connected as human beings.

Subject: RE: Virginia Tech massacre
To: Los Angeles Times

Dear Editor:
Sunday night I watched the Dateline story about the mentally-ill male in Albuquerque, N. M. begging for mental health services, was ignored, was able to obtain a gun, and murdered five individuals senselessly. One day later, I watched on t. v. the unfolding of the story of the massacre at Virginia Tech committed by a mentally-ill young man, clearly on the radar of local mental health services, but untreated, was able to obtain one of his guns off the internet, and murdered 32 individuals needlessly.
When will we wake up to, and do something about, the issues of male violence, of unrestrained access to guns, and the lack of genuine mental health services? The young student had written stories about child abuse -- What was his childhood like? How are we raising our male children such that mentally-ill men resort to mass violence, but rarely do mentally-ill women? With all the information we have about male alienated "loners", how could these mentally ill men be ignored by mental health providers both apparently saw, in the case of the student, at least once?
But more to the larger point: Is Bush seriously mentally disturbed? Is this society involved in a mass psychosis where we support the use of preemptive violence by police, by the military, by men? What happened at Virginia Tech goes on everyday, EVERY DAY, in Iraq as a direct result of American invasion and occupation. Is there a correlation between the fact that the U. S. has the greatest number of mass killings of any country in the world and at the same time, the largest military which routinely invades other countries? Are we collectively responsible for the killings at Virginia Tech to the extent we ignore the socialization of boys, the lax gun control laws, the lack of supportive meaningful mental health services throughout our country, the militarization of this country, the history of this country's use of force as the basis for foreign policy resulting in the unjustified invasion and ongoing violent occupation of Iraq and the threats of bombing of Iran?

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