Howdy, and Virginia Tech’s ASIAN KILLER

Thanks for the intro, ABW. I should preface my first entry by saying that I’m fairly mild-mannered, so when ABW asked me to be her guest blogger I wondered whether I could do a good job of it given that I’m rarely an Angry black woman — more of a Cynical and Frequently Annoyed black woman instead. ABW assured me that I wouldn’t have much trouble noticing things to get angry about, and sadly it seems that she was right.

So: the Virginia Tech horror. My heart goes out to the people directly affected by it, which includes several friends in the speculative fiction community. However, I’m already sick of the media feeding-frenzy. Not that the frenzy surprises me; I expected them to latch onto anything that could sufficiently detract attention from Alberto Gonzales. But in this case the frenzy has a particular tenor that’s pissing me off. (See? Anger.)

It started when I turned on the TV yesterday morning. Fox: “…the killer appears to have been an Asian man, a Korean…”

I hate Fox. So I flipped to a local channel, which I think was an ABC affiliate, and heard virtually the same phrase, verbatim.

And this morning, on NBC: “…new information today about the Asian killer in the Virginia Tech massacre…” I’m adding italics because that’s how the news guy said it, with a noticeable vocal emphasis. Asian killer. Pay attention.

So would someone please tell me why every description I hear of the shooter takes great pains to point out that he was Asian?

Racism, of course, is part of the answer — the usual tendency of Americans to a) assume “default white” unless otherwise noted, b) stereotype Asians as passive and quiet and strange, and/or c) overemphasize race whenever a sensationalist crime is committed by a non-white. (After all, I don’t ever remember the Columbine shooters described in the news as “white native-born Americans”, and the Amish school shooter wasn’t called a “heterosexual European-American male”.)

But this particular “crazy colored people” media frenzy goes beyond the merely racist, edging into political agendas far and wide. I expected the gun control debate that ABW has already touched on. What’s extra-crispy fun here is the way this will probably be played by the anti-immigrant movement. (And no, I don’t mean anti-illegal immigrant movement. That’s just the fresh semi-rational face of a much bigger, older, uglier phenomenon.)

The thing is, the VA-Tech shooter was a legal permanent resident who’s lived most of his life in this country. He was an equal-opportunity killer: all genders, all races, all nationalities, all ages. A substantial number of his victims were immigrants themselves. So his Korean background is, frankly, irrelevant — or at least, no more relevant than the Columbine and Amish shooters’ white American backgrounds. But given the stridency with which his Koreanness is being noted, how much do you want to bet there will now be fresh calls to cut back on the number of visas offered to foreign students and workers? Or the number of green cards given out to prospective citizens? How long before someone demands better “screening” (read: screening-out) of the people who apply for green cards? How long before some conservative pundit or “newspaper” links this massacre, logically or not, to illegal immigration?

Of course, this is apart from the usual stuff that happens whenever an ethnicity gets vilified by the media. Shouldn’t be long before some Imus-type somewhere makes a joke with Kim Jong Il, the VA-Tech guy, and Korean massage parlors in the same sentence.

So welcome, Koreans. (Wait, I forgot — most Americans will toss the Chinese, Thai, etc. in with you too. Welcome <em>Asians</em>.) Us black Americans and the Arabs have saved a seat for you in the “culturally and genetically predisposed to be fucked-up” corner that the media tries so hard to keep us in. Have some coffee. Read a book. You’re going to be here awhile.

-NKJ

16 Responses

  1. ..now, ladies and gentlemen that’s how you start a guest blog!

    (i thought i was the only one who noticed this racist characterization by the media- i’m glad i’m not just being an overanalytical, over-sensitive minority).

  2. Yeah, the Asian American Journalists Association is with you on this. They released a statement about the coverage of the shooter’s race, pointing out:

    “media outlets’ prominent mention that the suspect is an immigrant from South Korea when such a revelation provides no insight or relevance to the story. The fact he is not a U.S. citizen and was here on the basis of a green card, while interesting, should not be a primary focus in the profiling of him. To highlight that suggests his immigration status played a role in the shootings; there’s been no such evidence.”

    As I remember, the issue of presumed whiteness when it comes to “sensational crimes” made it into the public debate, at least to some extent, in the case of the DC snipers.

    But then, I guess race was last week’s news issue, right? You can’t be conscious of race discourse two weeks in a row or folks might get bored and change the channel.

  3. They’ve been using the same words here in the UK media – “Asian” or “Korean.” Isn’t he an American citizen? I thought he’d lived in the US since he was about eight years old. And what possible relevance can his ethnicity have anyway?

  4. mhayinde,

    From what I can tell, he was a permanent resident (i.e., he had his Green Card, which is actually kind of pink but that’s beside the point) — not a citizen yet, but once you’ve got PR status it’s usually all over but the fat lady. The only difference between PR and citizenship is that PR status has to be renewed periodically, and can be revoked. Citizenship is permanent.

  5. Ahh thanks for the info – I didn’t know about PR status.

  6. […] Slant Truth: Va. Tech and Gun Control Guest Blogging at ABW: Howdy and Virginia Tech’s ASIAN KILLER […]

  7. Im going to be very honest and call BS on this entire Blog.

    The very blog before this one is over what term to use to identify skin ethnicity.
    The blog about color blindness rightly states that you are in fantasy land if you don’t see color.

    Black ain’t the only color. Should I head off to fantasy land when an Asian is around?
    The fact that he was born in Korea makes the identification even more relevant.

    America the Crazy, accusing someone of Racism is a serious charge. You better have more than identifying the ethnicity of an Asian.

    In this climate, calling someone a racist is equal the offensiveness of the N word. Think about it. If you call me a racist you are telling me that you think, in my heart, I want to enslave people and that I justify all the horrible things that have happened when I would fight to the death to prevent them from ever happening again. All for calling a Korean an Asian.

    Pretty Damn Offensive. Be careful throwing that word around.

  8. It is a serious charge to people like you when you refuse to admit that a lot about America is racist.

    Who here said that black is the only color? You insinuated that, especially when this topic here isn’t even about Black people – it’s about Seung-Hui Cho and the fact that the media keeps throwing around the fact that he’s Asian, as if that somehow matters unless they want to villify people.

    I ask you – how is it relevant that you can identify him as being Korean? It is somehow going to mold your idea of how Koreans behave?

  9. mike:

    First of all, learn the lingo: “Howdy, and the Virginia Tech’s ASIAN KILLER” is a post or article on a blog called The Angry Black Woman. “Howdy” is not a seperate blog in and of itself. ‘kay?

    Secondly, what I find most offensive is your antiquated view of racism. Racism is an institution born of privilege; it doesn’t always mean rednecks in white hoods.

    Finally, the reason that Cho being labeled as the “Asian” killer is so racist is because not only does it put his race into the forefront, but because it also does not distinguish his national orgin from that of any other Asian, aka: They All Look Alike So Why Even Bother.

    By the way, how is the fact that he was born in Korea relevant to the crimes he committed?

  10. Angel,
    As ABW pointed out, most incorrectly label all blacks as African Americans, no matter what the heritage.
    Technically, the term Asian is correct for people from any country. I don’t, nor do most people, think of Asians as violent so I certainly didn’t think “Oh, another violent Asian.” I think it was relevant because they seem to be a group that has a hard time integrating in the US. Not in a bad way, they just keep to themselves it seems.
    Had he been born and raised in the US, the identification of race might be questionable.
    I think the fact that he was born in another country, (Korea is irrelevant) is a huge deal. We are all ignorant assholes, as a whole, with accepting other cultures…Black people included. I know that a lot of black people despise Asians.

    Racism is more than ‘privlidge’, it is an evil that is taught in all segments of society.
    Do you know what group I pretty much despise and am racist against? Rednecks…I grew up in a small town and was picked on by those idiots…..I hate anyoe with a cowboy hat, and it is wrong….And Im a white male.

    And, I aint just saying this, but I LOVE black women…..For a bunch of reasons……

    Im also sick of bitching about racism and black and white….I signed up to be a big brother 2 weeks ago. We should all spend the same amount of time DOING something as we do wasting bandwidth blogging.

  11. I have to say, I think it is relevant to the news story that Cho is from Korea. In recent years American violence has been a major hot topic (Bowling for Columbine). The fact that Cho is an immigrant from Asia is unusual. Unusual is news. Very little gun violence in this country is committed by immigrants from Asia, especially college students without criminal ties. There is a whole bag of stereotypes about the “quiet” Asian type, and I think it’s worthwhile to analyze how those stereotypes play out in the media coverage of an event like this. It tells us a lot about our nation. It tells us about what fascinates us.
    I don’t believe that identifying him as “Asian” is an attempt to connect that part of his identity to the crimes he committed. I would like to give the viewing public the benefit of the doubt and assume they can decide whether his identity as “Korean” or “Asian” caused his crimes. I know this sounds like I don’t understand. I do know that the media has MANY details to work with, and the process of presenting those details reveals huge biases. On the other hand, almost nothing was known about the killer when he was first identified as an Asian male. Any information was important information, and what started as one fact was just the beginning of a barrage of factual data about Cho and his life.
    Also, I feel like I DO hear “killer has been identified as a white male” in the media. Am I wrong? I think focusing on a word like “Asian” hurts the relevant points that are being made. The fact that the word “Asian” (just the word!) brings such feelings to the surface means that this is sensitive for all of us, whether we are Asians or white supremacists. Can’t we all just agree to make our own decisions about facts? Do we suspect that we are too dumb as a nation to trust ourselves?

  12. Mike S,

    If talking about racism bothers you… why are you here? There are lots of other places where you can go and express your love of black women to your heart’s content. In this space that’s not the point.

    Also,

    I think it was relevant because they seem to be a group that has a hard time integrating in the US. Not in a bad way, they just keep to themselves it seems.
    Had he been born and raised in the US, the identification of race might be questionable.

    That’s… so many levels of illogical that I can barely wrap my head around it. Lots of subgroups of people “keep to themselves”, and it’s not a sign of anything other than that human beings tend to clump into groups that share experiences and interests. It wouldn’t be any different if Cho had been born in the US. Good grief, remember the Columbine killers? Born and bred of longtime US families, plain-vanilla white Americans, and they kept to themselves, and they went stark fucking loony just like Cho. Nobody emphasized their whiteness and Americanness.

    And dan,

    Read the post again. The problem isn’t that Cho was simply identified as Asian. The problem is the emphasis and repetition with which his ethnicity/origin was identified.

  13. I was actually surprised how little they focused on his background as an immigrant. To me, it was the most interesting thing about the story.

  14. The problem isn’t that Cho was simply identified as Asian. The problem is the emphasis and repetition with which his ethnicity was identified.

    Exactly.

  15. i couldn’t agree more and i’m glad you brought this issue up.

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