Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech

I've been horrified and greatly saddened by the shooting at Virginia Tech. And, I am ashamed to say, initally a little relieved that he wasn't Chinese or Taiwanese-American (my race). All the reasons I should feel shame for (we're all Americans, it's one disturbed individual who could've been of any race, and it's about the tragedy of the victims and event, not about personal race relations, trying to differentiate between "Asians" at a time like this is cowardly, etc., etc.) and for all the reasons I wish I didn't (if there is a backlash it probably won't matter what Asian the shooter was anyway) have been jumbled together and I've been trying to come to terms with my varying emotions to write something coherent; but I read this:

Let it be some other Asian

on someone else's blog and realized I probably couldn't say it any better.


Libby Koponen said...

Did you hear the editorial on NPR saying the words "Asian" and "South Korean" should never have been used in the first place? That guns and gun laws and (sadly) now these school shootings are part of the American culture, that the killer was an American? This I believe. Amd I also understand your feelings and while I salute you for having the courage to put them out there, they me sad, as do all feelings of shame that people have around race and class. I guess this too is part of the American culture, and I'm glad you're writing about them, here and in your wonderful books.

jamesmargaret3rd said...

Like you, I have always felt more American than Asian (having grown up in Hawaii). But when this unspeakable incident occurred, I felt more Korean than American. Maybe because deep down, I know this is how I am perceived by the average person on the street. My survival instinct kicked in -- will there be a backlash? I felt more than sorrow; I felt partly responsible. The first pictures of the shooter were so shocking because he looked like he could easily be a relative.

My husband, who is Caucasian, couldn't understand why I would feel responsible. I had to reiterate that in Asian culture, what one individual does reflects on the whole group. This characteristic will never diminish no matter how many generations pass, or how westernized people become.

I know all Americans are hurting. It's just that when you are part of an ethnic minority, you are always vulnerable, watchful, wary. Something this heartbreaking goes straight to the gut -- and there is where you find your basic identity, your blood, or ethnicity.

Your feelings of relief are natural, instinctual. I'm pretty sure the last thing every Asian American wanted was to have to align his/her identity alongside the gunman's. In our increasingly violent society, the hardest lesson we might have to learn is to look out for ourselves, even if it goes against the grain of centuries of cultural conditioning.

Jama Rattigan