Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In the Korean American News

It’s everywhere. I’ve tried to make sure that when I watch or listen that I’m not forgetting that it’s all about the people. Get past the sensationalism and the gimmicks that everyone uses to make sure you tune into their program and not the competitors. I listen to NPR every morning and evening during my work commute and tonight I started wondering how the Asian American media was looking at the tragedy at Virginia Tech so I logged onto New America Media (one of my favorites).

Andrew Lam wrote an article called “Let It Be Some Other Asian.” He wrote how no one wanted the Asian to be their origin (Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc…). I remember when I first heard that the dead shooter was Asian. I had similar thoughts and a little guilt for having the thought in the first place. I also remember feeling a little angry as I listened to the news. What did it matter if the shooter was Asian? He was obviously unstable and he was obviously dead…so how did his being Asian change the story?

In another article, “Hurt, Sad…Koreans React to Virginia Tech Shootings,” I was appalled at some of the things that I read there. It made me sad (like the article suggests) and it made me a little wary.

Korean media in Washington, D.C. reported that a majority of Korean businesses had closed early following Cho's identification. A report in the Chosun Daily noted that Korean students at Virginia Tech locked themselves inside their dorm rooms, too afraid to come out. The same report stated that some Koreans had even begun preparing to leave the country.

As soon as I heard the news, I had prepared myself for the most common comments. I was prepared for the “those people” comments and the racial slurs. This is something that I have unfortunately had to learn, but the level of the fear that would lead people to lock themselves in rooms and even leave the country awed me. It made me wonder briefly if I wasn’t worried enough. I do worry that there are some people that aren’t able to separate the shooter from where he was born. It’s sad that if the shooter had been a White Virginian, no one would ever speculate that everyone would hate all Virginians.

Robert Siegel from All Things Considered on NPR said it well for me. Listen to what he had to say today.


Melissa said...

Thank you for posting on this topic and for the links to articles, Mo. This has been a tragic event, period. Why does race matter? It makes me so sad to know that people are using this incident to justify discriminatory behaviors.

It also makes me wonder how this may affect my daughter if/when something else happens in the future. At 18 months, the impact on her specifically is minimal (mostly because she's so darned cute), but it's frightening to speculate about a world that continues to harbor hatred against others simply because of outward appearances.


Third Mom said...

"Those people" comments - oh, that speaks volumes, Mo.

The backlash was inevitable, and it started swiftly. And while everyone is focusing on the fact that Cho Seung Hui happened to be Korean, they're missing the point altogether - which is how his family, schools and doctors missed his illness all his life.

If we want to bring race and ethnicity into this discussion, let's talk about the disparity between races when it comes to access to healthcare, or the difficulty that immigrant families have finding it.

Anonymous said...

While your post is over a year old, I felt compelled to respond. I was adopted from Korea 28 years ago, English is my first language though I speak several European languages, I decline celebrating Korean holidays for the same reasons, and my culture is "American" just like yours, complete with July 4th celebrations with potato salad, cheeseburgers, and pond-swimming.

After the Virginia Tech incident, I received racist comments from several people, including a a gas station attendant who asked if I was Korean, and when I said yes, he jokingly acted all scared that I was going to shoot him. It infuriates and saddens me that people still see race before humanity. You're right - had he been a "white boy", no one would have painted all white boys as future gunmen.

Thank you for bringing this up. I came across your blog today and feel both validated and amazed by our similar perspectives - it's as though I could have written half your posts. :)