How will Cho Seung-Hui’s Virginia Tech shooting effect Asian Americans?

by Peter Nguyen

Cho Seung-Hui Picture of Virginia Tech Shooting

In the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year old Korean student, was out on a mission to kill his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. America doesn’t know much about Asian Americans other than the racially-profiled stereotypes described in the media with Model Minority traits like being quiet, hard working, family oriented, and intelligent. Unfortunately, finally when Asians do get in the news, it’s for one of U.S. history’s deadliest tragedy.

One source stated:

According to unconfirmed rumors available to The Reference Frame, the killer was a 6-foot tall male Asian – I suppose East Asian – student between 20 and 25 years from Radford University whose girlfriend from Virginia Tech left him. He had two guns (at least one of which was a 9 mm caliber handgun) and wore a vest – probably a bulletproof vest – with
too much ammunition as well as a maroon cap and a black leather jacket.

In the morning around 7:15 am, he went to her dormitory in the West Ambler Johnston Hall. She was not there so he shot her roommate and the residential assistant. They didn’t shut down the university, so he continued and tried to find the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend in the classroom of the Norris Hall (engineering) a few hours later. He didn’t know the exact location, so he has visited a few classes, lined up all students against a wall, and shot them one by one – and then himself by a shot into his head.

CNN reported:

The gunman who killed 30 people at Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall before turning the gun on himself was student Cho Seung-Hui, university police Chief Wendell Flinchum said Tuesday.

University officials said they were still trying to determine if Cho was responsible for an earlier shooting at a dormitory that left two dead.

However, Flinchum said ballistics tests show that one of the two guns recovered at Norris Hall was used at Norris and at the dorm.

Cho, a 23-year-old South Korean and resident alien, lived at the university’s Harper Hall, Flinchum said. He was an English major, the chief said.

Cho was a loner and authorities are having a hard time finding information about him, said Harry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations.

What can we learn from this now? What are your thoughts on the motives of how might Asian and/or American culture have played a role in this? How can relationship heartaches lead to such a an extreme massacre? Many sources said he was constantly teased and harrassed by other students. Was this out of racial frustration?

This goes against most mainstream Americans stereotypical beliefs of Asians. So will Asians be more racially stereotyped and bigoted in America or will this event give America more perspective on how Asians don’t fit in one stereotypical box? Maybe even break down some racial walls?

After the Columbine shooting, that didn’t have America thinking about how corrupted white Americans are, they just concluded that there are some bad people in this world. I doubt if race will be overlooked. Most importantly, how can we all grow from this incident?

Speak your mind, we all want to listen…

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2 Responses

  1. > 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 _tnopper@yahoo.com_ (mailto:tnopper@yahoo.com)

  2. at a time like this, why would you think of how this would affect someone’s view about your race?
    I don’t know. I belive every race is mixed in together and that stereotypes exist, but only in someone’s mind. You know what I mean? We all act alike, we all think alike..

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