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Monday, April 30, 2007

How Asian-American students feel about the Virginia Tech Tragedy

While the Virginia Tech tragedy on April 16 elicited concerns over gun control, mental health care, and campus security, some Asian-Americans may have more to cope with.

"My concern is that the media might portray a stereotype of a quiet Asian as dangerous," said Kathy Cheung, a De Anza College bio-chemistry student from Hong Kong, referring to the killer Cho Seung-Hui as being repeatedly reported as - "the loner."

First came shocking, and then concerns about stereotype and national reputation were almost the next things that appeared in some Asian-Americans' mind when Cho Seung-Hui was first mistakenly reported as a Chinese immigrant and later a Korean.

Alex Lin, a Chinese-American and a first year political science student, said a notion of "perpetual foreigner" exists in America. He said that most Asians in America are seen as Chinese and that they are all local to China and not to America.

Cho Seung-Hui was once being told to "go back to China" by his high school classmates.

Sung Kim, a Korean-American and a fourth year journalism student at De Anza College, was distressed by the fact that the killer was a Korean-American. And that the news continuously saying Cho, who had long been living in America since 1992, as an immigrant alienates Koreans from Americans, he said.

"They are establishing a distance between him and America," Kim said. "As an Asian, you could be the second, third, or fourth American generation. But because you look Asian, people would think you are a foreigner even though you have no connection with your motherland,"

And some are concerned about concerns about national reputation.

BBC reporter, Charles Hogun, said in a KQED radio show -"The World" - that "the Korean reputation will suffer." Since Koreans associate themselves to the nation to a great extend, there is a sense of collective guilt formed between them. And Koreans see this tragedy as a national crisis, Hogun said.

When the media first made a mistaken report on Cho's ethnic background as Chinese, the authorities in mainland China were especially alarmed. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao even openly criticized certain American media for their irresponsible ethics and inaccurate information.

And a Korean website named "Naver" even has a message that says, "It's shameful to be a South Korean!"

"It's ashamed that they deny their identities." Kim said, "The denial of identity does not help alleviating the situation."

Nevertheless, some Asian-American students at De Anza College said they treated Cho as an individual regardless of his nationality, so they did not have any uneasiness or embarrassment after knowing Cho's ethnic background.

Most Asian-American students at De Anza College say the massacre won't cause any possible racial backlash in the Bay Area or on campus because of the racial diversity in California.

According to San Jose Mercury News, the Peninsula has one of the nation's most diverse populations, and Vietnamese, Hindi, Farsi, Spanish, and Chinese speakers are among the largest ethnic groups in the region. In De Anza College, four percent of the students are international students.

"There are a lot of Asians here. This kind of thing [racial backlash] won't happen in California," said Huy Li, a Vietnamese-American and a criminal justice major at De Anza College. [Link]


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Ethnic minorities blocked from top jobs

Men from ethnic minorities in managerial and professional jobs earn up to 25% less than their white colleagues, new research claimed today.
Comparable payscales revealed that black African and Bangladeshi men were likely to face the greatest pay discrimination, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found.

While Indian men were the least likely to be discriminated against they were still earning less than white men doing the same job, the researchers discovered.

The levels of pay discrimination amongst ethnic minority men were revealed in one of six research reports into poverty among the UK's ethnic minority communities that were published by the foundation this morning.

Researchers also found that although educational qualifications boosted employment prospects for all minority ethnic people, it was minority ethnic men who followed professional or managerial career paths who were most likely to face pay discrimination.

The trend, described by researchers as a "pervasive feature of the British labour market", suggested the need for greater intervention to "combat persistent, widespread discrimination in the labour market," they said.

Ethnic minority women graduates also found it hard to climb the career ladder and employment prospects differed between the ethnic groups, researchers working on behalf of the foundation found.

Having a degree improved the job prospects of Bangladeshi and Pakistani women but they were less likely than Indian women and white women to obtain professional or managerial posts, it found.

Researchers discovered that Bangladeshi and Pakistani women were more likely to go to a local university because their families preferred them to live at home. This factor should be considered by universities when deciding which undergraduate courses to run, they recommended.

Employment prospects for all ethnic minority groups and sexes deteriorated when their religion was taken into account.

The foundation said "being a Muslim is associated with lower employment rates after ethnicity is taken into account." The discrimination also applied to white British Muslims, whose chances of finding a job were up to 20% less likely than those with no religion, it found.

The researchers accepted that links between religion and employment are "complex" but said: "There may be scope for policy initiatives in this area, such as employment agencies working with religious organisations."

Today's research reports revealed overall poverty figures for ethnic minority communities in the UK. The statistics showed that 40% of ethnic minority communities live in poverty - double the poverty rate of the white British communities - and are most likely to live in London, parts of the north and the Midlands than elsewhere in the UK. Half of all ethnic minority children in the UK live in poverty, the figures revealed.

Professor Kay Hampton, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the report showed an "invisible apartheid separating modern Britain".

"It is a sad fact that black Africans and Bangladeshis earn up to a quarter less than white men in similar positions. It is hard to fathom that in this day and age, a man with the right qualifications and skills is judged not on his abilities but on the colour of his skin.

"Equality is not just taking down no entry signs, its granting real people real opportunities in everything from health to employment," she said.[Link]

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Former prime minister says discrimination against Muslims rising in Australia

The government is partly to blame for an increase in discrimination against Muslims in Australia, a former prime minister said Monday.

Malcolm Fraser, who headed Prime Minister John Howard's Liberal Party when it was last in power from 1975 to 1983, said Australia's reputation as a successful multicultural society was threatened by its treatment of Muslims — a minority of 400,000 among 21 million.

"Today, for a variety of reasons, but not least because the government has sought to set Muslims aside, discrimination and defamation against Muslims has been rising dramatically," the 76-year-old former center-right leader said in a lecture on contemporary Australia at the Australian National University.

The federal discrimination watchdog, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, interviewed more than 1,400 Arab and Muslim Australians in 2003 and found that 93 percent believed there had been an increase in racism, abuse and violence against their groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

The commission heard that women wearing jihabs feared being spat on as they walked their children to school and others suspected they had been refused jobs because they had Muslim names. [Link]

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When the killer is ethnic

If Americans played the blame game, blacks scored a field goal with the Washington DC sniper incident, Middle Easterners made a three point shot with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and now Asians have tallied the Virginia Tech massacre - Who's next?

Whites, on the other hand, scored a touch down with Columbine. But it didn't count because of a technicality foul of majority rules - whites make up the largest percentage in this country, thus, race did not come into play. The Columbine killers were viewed as troubled high school teens in big black trench coats who lost their way in society. I am worried that Asians will now be victims of hate crimes and harassment.

Racist comments and topics plague the internet, including those aimed at Asians. Just look at the videos of Cho Seung Hui on youtube.com, and see countless pages of users lashing out on each other with racist responses.

But Cho being Asian has nothing to do with why he killed 32 people. John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo being black had nothing to do with why they killed people in the DC area. But the media pounded their ethnicity into the minds of viewers as if it was, in fact, a relevant characteristic.

Yet, the news always said Cho's name, followed by the term "Koran-born," "legal permanent U.S. resident," or "South Korean national," even days after the incident occurred.

Cho was raised in the U.S. since the age of eight. It's safe to say that he was Americanized. His English was perfect - not even a Korean accent was noticeable from the video he sent to NBC.

He and millions of other Americanized and American-born Asians, including myself, will always be considered foreign, based upon the way we look. There are Asians who are third, fourth or fifth generation Asian-American, but the answer "San Jose" will never be the right response to the question "where are you from?"

Ask the same question to a white person and a simple answer such as "the East Coast" is able to tell his or her entire life story.

Minh Hoang, a Vietnamese CSU East Bay student, told La Voz what he experienced after the Virginia Tech shootings, He said he always came to class tired and would sit in the back of the classroom and not say much because he wanted to sleep. "People realized that the Cho guy was really quiet also and he turned out to be crazy so they probably thought that I was crazy too because I was quiet," Hoang said. "[People] just started to talk to me for no reason. The older white students would come up to me and say random things, like 'How was your day?' 'Where are you from?'"

Asians only make up about 4 percent of the U.S. population, yet no matter how long we stay in this country, we will always be considered foreigners because we cannot blend in with the crowd We stick out like a sore thumb, so we better be on our best behavior.

Because of our small numbers, many Asians, especially older generation Asians such as my parents, feel as though they must set an example and show the "Americans" that we are good and loving people. They don't want any trouble or backlash. The less confrontation, the better.

Growing up, I felt like setting a good example was our obligation. Ironically, this also made me and other Asians I know feel singled out and different.

Ethnicity has nothing to do with why or what anyone does. It doesn't justify anything. Dr. Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Unfortunately, that dream is still a dream. [Link]


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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Washington Post: Tenet and Racial Profiling

Al-Qaeda has responded to the U.S. intelligence focus on young Arab men as potential risks, he says, by recruiting "jihadists with different backgrounds. I am convinced the next major attack against the United States may well be conducted by people with Asian or African faces, not the ones that many Americans are alert to." [Link]


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Justice focuses on court's role in protecting civil liberties

Justice Stephen Breyer on Saturday stressed the role of the Supreme Court in protecting civil liberties in an age of terrorism.

At a public appearance in Brussels, Belgium, the justice said the high court made a mistake in World War II when it said the relocation of Japanese-Americans in internment camps was constitutional.

Believing a Japanese invasion of the West Coast was possible, President Roosevelt set the program in motion.

"We should have a tough law protecting civil liberties; and if the president thinks that it has to be broken, save the country, he'll break it," Breyer said. "I used to rather sympathize with that point of view, but I don't anymore."

Breyer did not mention President Bush or Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the site of a U.S. prison where nearly 400 detainees have been held indefinitely, some for five years.

In its 6-3 decision in 1944, the Supreme Court said it is permissible to curtail civil rights of a racial group when there is a pressing public necessity.

Breyer related the history of the internment of the Japanese-Americans from personal knowledge. Breyer, who was born in San Francisco in 1938, said he was 6 years old when his mother pointed and said, "That's where they held the Japanese."

Also appearing with Breyer was Georgetown law professor Viet Dinh, who drafted the original Patriot Act in 2001 while serving in the Justice Department shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Dinh said public acceptance of tough law enforcement measures is changing.

As the threat of terrorism "dissipates in the public imagination and importance in the public debate, obviously the public acceptance of measures and restrictions wane and that's when we start thinking about the rules of the road for the long haul," said Dinh.

Breyer and Dinh participated at the Brussels Forum, an annual trans-Atlantic security conference. [Link]

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Not all WWII detainees in San Mateo were Japanese

Six decades of hidden anger and pain will go public this weekend at the largest gathering yet to publicize the World War II incarceration in the United States of almost 15,000 residents with ties to Germany and Italy.

While the forced detention during World War II of Japanese living in the United States is now widely known, neglected on the pages of history books is the imprisonment in the 1940s of thousands of Germans and Italians living in America in bleak camps in California, North Dakota and Texas, among other states.

Today, men and women who as children lived in the camps, or whose parents were incarcerated there, will gather in San Mateo to launch a fresh bid to move this forgotten chapter in U.S. history from obscurity and onto the stage of public debate.

"Americans needs to decide what they think about this program," said Karen Ebel, a conference panelist and daughter of 87-year-old Max Ebel, a German American interned at age 22. "This happened to European people, and it can happen to just about anyone, depending the circumstances in the world." The three-hour conference, funded with a $10,000 state grant, is called "The Hidden Stories of World War II." It opens with poignant testimonials about the camps from the six panelists, five with direct experience of the camps.

Linking that 1940s social upheaval with current times, panelists will discuss what they view as history repeating itself with treatment of U.S. residents of Arabian descent, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks....

The "Hidden Stories of World War II" conference is free and open to the public. It will be from 1 to 4 p.m. today at the San Mateo Public Library, 55 W. Third. Ave., San Mateo. Performances of the "Freedom Lost" plays, which are also free, begin at 7:30 p.m. today in the Little Theater at Hillsdale High School, 3115 Del Monte St., San Mateo. Call (650) 522-7800 for information on the conference and (650) 558-2699 for information about the plays. [Link]


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Friday, April 27, 2007

Echoes From Blacksburg

Although 224 miles separate the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia and the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland, the shootings that took place in Blacksburg on Monday, April 16 had repercussions that were felt in College Park throughout the last week.

The April 19 issue of The Diamondback, the University of Maryland newspaper, reported that Jen Park, president of the Asian American Student Union, had heard reports of Asian Pacific American students on campus who had to deal with people whispering "there goes another one," or that they should "go back where they came from." To the minds of immature and ill-informed people on campus, the actions of the shooter in Blacksburg, a Korean American named Seung Cho who had immigrated as a child and attended American K-12 schools, had made all APAs suspect.

Fortunately, University of Maryland President Daniel Mote sent a strong, clear and compassionate email message to the entire University of Maryland community on April 20, reminding everyone that the actions of one profoundly disturbed man in Blacksburg were not an excuse to blame or target an entire group of people. Entitled, "A Time to Come Together," it was a perfect example of how a community leader can set a tone that allows the voices of reason to prevail over the voices of hysteria and hate after a catastrophic event.

Meanwhile, a few miles down Route 1 in the nation’s capital, APA organizations struggled with the question of whether to send out official press releases on the Blacksburg shootings and, if so, what to say in those releases. Never in all my days here since the late 1970s as a reporter and civil rights advocate have I seen such trouble in deciding what to say.

The crux of the problem was that while the main actor in a devastating tragedy was Asian Pacific American, his troubled mental state was to blame for the tragedy on April 16, not his racial and ethnic identity. Yet many APA groups, based on past experience, wanted to vaccinate the country against the kind of backlash that had led to anti-Muslim actions after 9/11 and the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.

Adrian Hong, director of the Mirae Foundation, which mentors Korean American students, wrote an important op-ed piece in the Washington Post on April 20. He explored why the South Korean government and high profile Korean American such as Washington State Senator Paull [yes, it has two L’s] Shin felt compelled to issue formal apologies for Cho’s actions on April 16, based on a "collective sense of guilt and shame."

In but one example, South Korean ambassador Lee Tae Shik called on the Korean American community to "repent," suggesting a 32-day fast (one day for each of Cho’s victims), to prove that Korean Americans were a "worthwhile ethnic minority in America."

Hong’s opinion piece, which was another good example of timely, strong, clear-headed leadership, clarified the difference between being sad about what happened and feeling to blame for what happened. He concluded, "I ask the Koreans of America to please continue expressing your heartfelt condolences. They are helping the healing process. But please do not apologize. The actions of Cho Seung Hui were not your fault. If our heads are hung low, they should be in grief, not in apology and shame. This tragedy is something for all of us to bear, examine and try to prevent as Americans, together." [Link]


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FBI Arrests Man For Allegedly Sending Threatening E-Mails

Man Supposedly Threatens To Become 'New Towelhead Sniper'

Federal Officials said an Arlington man faces a slew of charges after he allegedly sent e-mails to family members threatening to kill Arab women and Latinos.

The FBI arrested 57-year-old Charles Gerbino Thursday morning in his Arlington home.

The communications were so full of rage that officials said Gerbino's sister contacted the FBI to warn them.

"He's charged with making threats through the interstate commerce by sending an e-mail from his home in Arlington to his sister who lived in Florida," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Melson. "In that e-mail were threats that he would shoot Arab women and Latinos."

In the e-mails, one which was written two days after the Virginia Tech shootings, Gerbino wrote, "I'm real, real, real close to that snapping point."

He also wrote, "I was just going to become the new Towelhead Sniper ..."

Gerbino remains in federal custody. He has a court appearance next week. [Link]

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Asians on edge after Virginia deaths

Like many people last week, I was glued to the television as news of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech unfolded.

I recalled my family's anxious moments in 1966 as we waited to hear from my older sister, who was a student at the University of Texas when Charles Whitman killed 16 people and injured 31 others.

I was watching the news from Blacksburg, Va., when I heard those ominous words from a reporter at the university: "The suspect is an Asian male."

Suddenly this heinous crime took on a new dimension. And like many people of Asian descent in this country, I began to worry about a possible backlash after Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and himself.

Though Mr. Cho had lived in the United States since he was 8 years old, initial media reports focused on the fact that he was a South Korean national. Headlines in several major newspapers used "Korean" or "Asian" in headlines. Reporters in South Korea interviewed Mr. Cho's great-aunt, a woman who had not seen him since he left the country. CNN interviewed a Korean-American psychologist and asked if Koreans were more prone to mental illness.

The New York Times published a story that suggested Mr. Cho may have been influenced by the Korean film Oldboy, directed by Park Chanwook. The South Korean government issued an apology to the people of the United States for the actions of Mr. Cho.

The Asian American Journalists Association put out a media advisory stating that race should be used as an identifier in stories only when it is pertinent. After the advisory was issued, the group's national office received more than 100 e-mails, letters and calls – most of them negative, according to Janice Lee, the association's deputy executive director.

"Some accused us of being racists," she said.

Is Mr. Cho's race a part of the story, or is the story that, as Asians, we will always stand out?

Why is race an issue for Mr. Cho, but not for the UT sniper or Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold?

But it should be no surprise that the backlash has begun.

Some Korean merchants have told reporters they are bracing for the worst in Los Angeles, where civil unrest among the Korean, black and other minority communities erupted in a riot in 1992.

A few Korean churches have reported receiving threatening e-mails.

Reports of Asian students receiving threatening messages, being spat upon or having their car tires slashed are trickling in from different parts of the country. One Asian student in Alabama was badly beaten last week, but it's not clear whether that attack was related to the Virginia Tech shootings.

"It may be difficult to track these hate crimes, much less link them to what happened at Virginia Tech," said Ms. Lee of the Asian journalists group. "Many of these reports are just beginning to surface." There is a tendency among Asians not to go public or report such crimes.

But what has been very public are the anti-immigrant and anti-Asian blogs posted after the Virginia Tech massacre. One blogger has listed "major" crimes or mass shootings committed by "foreigners" in this country. However, these figures would be minuscule compared with similar crimes committed by U.S. citizens.

Nevertheless, it is easy to understand why Asian-Americans are nervous.

"Many members of the community have been apprehensive," said Thomas Park, chairman of the Korean American Coalition in Dallas and Fort Worth. "But there have been no problems in this area so far."

Mr. Park also said the Korean Council of Churches and Pastors' Association held a memorial service for those affected by the shooting Sunday at the Binnerri Presbyterian Church in Richardson.

"Korean-Americans, as all Americans, are shocked and horrified by the senseless killings that occurred at Virginia Tech and grieve for the victims and their families," Mr. Park said.

Chong Choe, president of the coalition, said that while the crime was horrific, "we must understand that it was the act of one individual who happened to be Korean – not because he was Korean."

"The shooter could have come from any country – and the outcome would have been the same. It was a horrible, horrible thing. His race was not a factor. But what was a factor was that this young man had some serious emotional problems."

Mr. Choe also explained that the Korean-American community has two perspectives on the shooting.

"The first generation tend to take on the responsibility of the entire community," he said.

"It is part of the Korean culture to act on behalf of the collective consciousness – in other words, the actions of one Korean reflects on the entire community," Mr. Choe explained. "Perhaps this is why the Korean ambassador to the United States felt it necessary to apologize."

It is this same mind-set that led South Koreans to demand an apology they never received after a U.S. serviceman struck and killed two young girls in South Korea during the 2002 World Cup. The serviceman was driving a tank along a country road and did not see the girls.

However, Mr. Choe added, second-generation Korean-Americans understand and accept that one can act independently of the community.

"The actions of one Korean does not necessarily reflect on the rest of the community," he said. "And this is what many of us follow."

Mr. Park and Mr. Choe both said the media's interest in Mr. Cho's ethnicity is understandable.

"People were hungry for any information. It was a part of the story," Mr. Choe said. "The trouble is, it was not the only story."

He's right.

As a journalist, I understand the need to immediately feed the public's thirst for any and all information about Mr. Cho. But I can't help but feel that some in the media missed an important part of the story.

Mr. Cho's history of emotional instability has been well-documented. Yet he had no trouble going to a store and purchasing guns and massive amounts of ammunition.

This is as much a story about the state of this country's health-care system and lack of gun control.

I think this says more about what happened at Virginia Tech than whether Mr. Cho played video games or watched a violent movie.

But don't get me wrong. I'm sure race played a role in Mr. Cho's life – just as it does in the lives of every immigrant living in the U.S.

A statement made by Mr. Cho's sister, Sun Kyung Cho, haunts me.

"This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn't know this person. ... My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in."

Those words could be used to describe many young people in the United States – regardless of race. [Link]


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Asian students not worried about backlash

Several members of OSU’s Asian community said that they haven’t experienced anything negative following the Virginia Tech shootings.

However, of the 411 Asian students at OSU, Catherine Vijayakumar, the coordinator of programs for the Multicultural Student Center, said she has spoken with several of them and they told her they haven’t had any issues.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of students and none of them have experienced anything negative,” said Vijayakumar, who is also the adviser of the Asian-American Student Association.

“They’ve all said it has nothing to do with race.”

Junghyun Suh, an architecture junior from South Korea and the president of the Korean Student Association, is one of these students.

“I haven’t experienced anything rude or negative at OSU, but I’ve heard that some big cities like New York and Los Angeles have had problems,” he said.

Suh said in Korea many of the citizens felt people would think Korea did something wrong to the U.S. and the U.S. would reciprocate.

Another Korean student, Hwibum Cho, who said that “Cho” is a popular surname in Korea, also said he hasn’t had any negative experiences, but said he did hear of one in New York.

“I heard a guy went into a restaurant in New York and was asked to leave because he is South Korean,” he said. [Link]


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Woman takes plea in vandalism case

A Town of Newburgh woman pleaded guilty Tuesday in Orange County Court to vandalizing a house that’s at the center of a family feud.

As her trial was ready to start, Donna D’Addio, 47, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal mischief, a felony. She was arrested last year after Nisar Ahmed complained to town police that D’Addio carved “Get Out Muslim Bastard” on his house.

D’Addio was originally charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime. But as part of a plea bargain, she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of criminal mischief. Her lawyer, Ray Sprowls, said last week that D’Addio has had a long-running dispute with Ahmed, who was once married to D’Addio’s mother.

In exchange for her plea, prosecutors said they’ll ask Judge Jeffrey G. Berry on May 22 to sentence D’Addio to six months in Orange County Jail and five years’ probation. She could have faced a maximum of 1¤ to four years in state prison. [Link]

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American Sikhs Shocked by ‘Inflammatory’ AP Article

Sikhs say an Associated Press story suggesting the FBI has asked followers of their faith to cooperate in counter-terrorism efforts perpetuates the attitude has led to prejudicial attacks on them since 9/11.

"The FBI is intensifying efforts nationwide to enlist Muslims, Arab-Americans and Sikhs to help thwart a possible terrorist attack this summer or fall."

So says the first line of a July 9 Associated Press story that was picked up by numerous newspapers, radio and television outlets including CNN.com, ABCNews.com, National Public Radio and the Guardian Unlimited in England.

This was news to Sikhs, who are not Muslim or Arab and have never been linked to Al-Qaeda or the September 11 attacks.

"That gives the impression some members of the Sikh community are involved in terrorism," said Manjit Singh, president of Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Taskforce (SMART) which works toward accurate representation of Sikhs and Sikhism in American Society and media. "Sikhs are not connected in any way to 9-11."

The AP story, by reporter Curt Anderson, came from a July 9 FBI press release titled "Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations Reinforce Commitment to working with leaders of Muslim, Sikh and Arab-American Communities."

The press release is based on Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller's recent meeting with leaders of national Muslim, Sikh and Arab-American organizations. It lumped together the FBI's separate initiatives. One goal is to glean terror-related intelligence from Muslim and Arab-American community leaders. The other is to investigate and prevent hate crimes stemming from reaction to the war on terror and directed at these groups as well as at Sikhs, whom some mistake for Muslims because male Sikhs wear a type of turban.

"The AP jumped the gun by not realizing the clear distinction between the different things," said Singh. "Mr. Anderson fell victim to the common misconception that Sikhs are connected to 9-11. That's what we're trying to correct." [Link]

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Bally Total Fitness ordered to pay $24,000 to Sikh man who was turned down for a job

Bally Total Fitness will have to pay 24-thousand dollars to a Sikh man who sued after being denied a job when he was asked in an interview if he was Muslim.

The U-S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says Sukdev "Devin" Singh Dhaliwal (Sing DAH'-lee-wahl) applied for a sales job with one of Bally's five Fresno fitness centers in 2004.

The commission says an interviewer quizzed Dhaliwal, who was born and raised in California, about his religious and ethnic background. Dhaliwal was turned down for a job and non-Sikh, non-Indian applicants with less experience were hired instead.

Under the consent decree approved yesterday by a federal judge, Bally must pay Dhaliwal 24-thousand dollars in damages and provide training in equal opportunity hiring practices to managers at its Fresno locations. [Link]

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Koreans fear backlash

The Korean community of Fairfax County has one resounding question for Virginia's leaders: Will the Virginia Tech shootings reflect badly on Koreans as a group?

Governor Tim Kaine did his best to allay those fears in a town hall meeting called on short notice in Annandale, along with the ambassador of the Republic of Korea, Tae Sik Lee. Lee also met with members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last week.

"Will there be a backlash?" several community members stood to ask the governor. "Will this damage the relationship between Korea and the United States?"

Because they believe people are responsible for caring for each other, local Koreans feel much personal shame and sorrow because a Korean murdered people, according to Young Chan Ro, Department Chair of Religious Studies at George Mason University.

Some have also expressed fear that their community would experience a backlash similar to what Muslim-Americans encountered after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"I can only reassure you that this will not, in any way, tarnish or fray the relationship," Kaine answered. "No one views you as culpable in the least degree."

Speaking in grave tones, Lee said that the reaction to the Virginia Tech shootings morphed from "shock, dismay and disbelief" to "sorrow and anguish" upon the news that the responsible person, Seung-Hui Cho, was Korean. [Link]


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One incident shouldn't create prejudice

People always want to fool themselves into thinking America is a non-racist, all-accepting country. And once again, an event occurs and changes all of that.

Recently, a South Korean student killed 32 people in what became the deadliest incident of its kind. Shock was my initial reaction, and then a feeling of dread: He was South Korean? Oh, brother. I knew what was coming my way. Still, I am appalled by some of the comments I am seeing and hearing.

One person messes up and suddenly his entire race is under attack. Case in point: the comments left on the "Fighting Asian Backlash (VT)" wall on Facebook. Here's one comment that stung particularly: "look. Koreans are a daner [sic] to society. this Cho thing is just ONE example. There are also other dangers...what good has come to this country because of Koreans? (other than their food and women and movies...)." I read this and couldn't believe my eyes. How could he generalize all Koreans as a "daner [sic] to society?"

I'm South Korean, and I don't believe myself to be any sort of danger to society. As far as I know, my people are hard-working and diligent. Sure, that seems like a stereotypical description of Asians, but it is true. My parents work hard, toiling long hours to send me to school and to support me in all my endeavors. Many Koreans are in the service business, working at dry cleaners, doughnut shops and car repair. Unless I'm mistaken, service is giving back and helping out society.

Koreans are good people overall, and it really bothers me that one person can muddy up our reputation. But come on, people, don't let one incident turn you into a racist. Besides, isn't this a time where our country should unite and reach out to console those who were involved in this tragedy? Point your passions elsewhere, and stop making racist comments. Open up your mind and stop trying to blame innocent people.

How unfair is it to blame one person's behavior on an entire group of people? Since when was race that important? It bothers me that the news continues to emphasize that Cho was a "South Korean student." Is there really a need to emphasize it so much? Let's look at it this way. I'm not trying to make a racist comment, just a thought. If the killer had turned out to be Caucasian, would the news continuously call him a "Caucasian" or "white" student? I really don't think so. Why then, is it really relevant that he's South Korean, or if he was African, or Cuban?

If anything should be emphasized, it should be the fact that Cho seemed mentally disturbed. He wrote disturbing stories, and was even evaluated at a mental hospital. These, if anything, would be the things that drove him to commit such a horrendous crime. Not because he was South Korean.

It's cliché, I know, but it seems appropriate: If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. There were enough people hurt in this incident. There's no point in continuing that hurt by making stinging remarks. Even jokes should be avoided. You might think it's funny, but you could end up really offending somebody else…like me. So please, stop. [Link]

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UCSB Asians Fear VTech Fallout

In the wake of last week’s Virginia Tech shootings, universities around the country are asking whether they are prepared for a similar occurrence - and the Asian-American community is wondering how the country will treat them as a result.

Last Monday, Korean-American student Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting spree on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, that left 27 students and five faculty members dead. Altough Cho had a long history of mental illness when he commited his crime, members of the Asian-American community fear that the focus on his nationality - rather then his mental illness - will cause a public backlash against Asian Americans.

In response, Asian-American students at UCSB are hosting a panel with UCSB faculty to discuss the perceptions of Asian-Americans post-Virginia Tech tonight at the SB Harbor Room in the UCen from 6 to 8 p.m.

Pablo Kim, head of the UCSB chapter of the Korean-American Coalition, is one of the main organizers of the event and said he hopes tonight’s panel will attract many non-Asians.

“The purpose of this event is to educate people about the incorrect perception of Asian Americans, and this discussion is aimed primarily to the non-Asian community,” Kim said. “The reactions Asians are having toward the shootings is that Cho was mentally ill, but non-Asians might bring into account Cho’s nationality.”

Kim hopes the discussion will help prevent negative reactions to the Asian community, although he said he has already felt such ridicule.

“People have given me nasty looks at least a couple of times since the shootings occurred,” Kim said.

One of the evening’s panelist is Asian American Studies Professor Diane Fujino, who said she will speak about the reaction in the Asian-American community.

“Asians, particularly the older Korean community, are afraid that this will harm people’s perception of them as a ‘model minority,’” Fujino said.

Fujino is also afraid of the effects this will have on all Asians, not just Koreans, beacause Americans tend to mix all Asians into a single category.

“Americans tend to conflate Asians into a single ‘other,’ and this case is receiving extra media attention because it was perpetrated by an Asian,” Fujino said. [Link]


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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Personal Account: EEOC Finds Discrimination at Merrill Lynch

"How can we trust you? You may read Quran and get ideas?"

That is what I was told in one occasion by my manager at Merrill Lynch co. where I worked for more than 3 years!

Merrill Lynch is the largest brokerage firm in America. An investment bank and a fortune 100 company with billions of dollars in profits each year. They have also a long track record of discrimination against African Americans, women, etc. (Google "Merrill Lynch + discrimination" for a long list of law suits and class actions some currently pending). The company employs roughly 50,000 employees out of which only 50 or so have Ph.D degrees. I was one of those with a Ph.D in physics and only one with a middle eastern or Muslim background.

Company is located in down town Manhattan a block away from ground zero. It's always a novelty to find an Iranian or someone of Muslim heritage on Wall Street even though Odds of that are slightly better than finding them on Mars!

If you ever try to get a foot in Wall street you would know that it's a mission impossible specially if you are an Iranian. It's just not meant for us. It's for few elites who have the "goods". You know! Anyhow, They were looking for some highly qualified applicant well versed in a quantitative/scientific discipline and after interviewing a couple of hundreds of candidates they didn't like, I showed up. More than 6 hours of grueling interviews and tens of questions (Math, Finance, Computer Science, Statistics, etc) later I was chosen. People who interviewed me were Ph.D graduates of Columbia, NYU, Cornell & Moscow university etc.

It was not until a year or so later that I demanded equal pay and promotion that discrimination and harassment surged. Beyond the time to time greetings of "terrorist", "risk factor" etc there were discriminatory actions that defies imagination. I was physically isolated from rest of my colleagues. While all my colleagues with PhD degrees (those who interviewed me) were sitting on 5th floor of world financial center I was forced to sit in isolation on a different floor next to IT support personnel and this other fellow who was a programmer with a high school degree! As a matter of fact from the three people who were sitting next to me none was a full time employee as me and none had a degree higher than college. Even though I was doing every bit of duty of a quantitative Analyst/Vice president I was isolated physically not to come in contact with my tiers (New era segregation!).

In one occasion one of my colleagues tried to explain to me this odd arrangement. He said: "Majid, you are from a country with a high risk factor. That's why you are not allowed on the trading floor"!

Trading floor is the heart of action (No, no one jumps up and down yelling. It's just that big players and decision makers are there). Here I was, a highly educated, cultured intellectual in this country with a PhD in physics and a Masters in Mathematical finance and I had to sit in some secluded corner because of my nationality and perceived religion. If you think that is shameful and discriminatory wait for the rest of the story.

Once a managing director of the firm shared his wisdom with everyone in the group and said: "If we ever have to fire someone among traders and analysts, who is it going to be? I think traders are so many like Palestinians so there is no problem losing some of them on the other hand analysts are few like Israelis, we can not afford losing them."

That statement is not just discriminatory that is plain hate speech. He has admitted saying that during Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation. EEOC is a government agency who is tasked by enforcing the civil rights act in US.

The harassment and discrimination continued till the point that I started pushing back and demand equal treatment and fair salary. Finally they decided to get rid of me. Despite the fact that the company was on a hiring spree at the time and added a net of few thousands to its work force they got rid of me under pretext of "Reduction in force".

Remember the guy who was sitting next to me with a high school degree? He was chosen over me to stay because they decided he has a better grasp of Financial mathematics than yours truly. No the guy is no math prodigy. He is a temp employee/consultant, an experienced programmer who nonetheless has a hard time even handling high school algebra! After they got rid of me they moved him to 5th floor to sit next to my colleagues who all have Ph.D degrees in math and physics! This is all happening in 21st century America folks! No doubt an opportunity land but for who?! You may find it relevant to know he is of Jewish descend and the manger who discovered his talent happens to be an Israeli national! OOPS!The statements I quoted above belong to other managers not him! Hum...!

After my lay off I filed a complaint with EEOC and they found Merrill Lynch guilty of discrimination against me. EEOC letter signed by the New York City director reads:

"Based on the analysis (of evidence), I have found that respondent subjected charging party to discrimination based on his race and religion and retaliated against him." (Part of the EEOC letter is attached I have eliminated the identities for legal concerns).

EEOC usually rejects 95% of discrimination claims as without merit. They also file a law suit on behalf of the plaintiff only in less than 1% of the cases. Despite the clear statement by EEOC as to blatant and vicious nature of this discrimination eight months ago I am still waiting for them to take the next step and file a law suit in federal court!

To call this discrimination is a misuse of English language. This is a hate crime and a downright attempt to eliminate elite elements of a race and religion and replace them by those who have racial, political and religious affinity with them. It is the people at these positions who are going to command influence and power in the society and by eliminating the elite of one race those who perpetrate these acts consciously and methodically intend to foster an environment that guarantees their domination for generations to come.

It would be a colossal mistake to treat this as an isolated case of unintentional lapse in judgment. This case has all the hallmarks of a concerted effort to systematically insure the future of one race at the expense of another. [Email from Mr Borumand]

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Poetry is Dangerous: Kazim Ali

On April 19, after a day of teaching classes at Shippensburg University, I went out to my car and grabbed a box of old poetry manuscripts from the front seat of my little white Beetle and carried it across the street and put it next to the trashcan outside Wright Hall. The poems were from poetry contests I had been judging and the box was heavy. I had previously left my recycling boxes there and they were always picked up and taken away by the trash department.

A young man from ROTC was watching me as I got into my car and drove away. I thought he was looking at my car which has black flower decals and sometimes inspires strange looks. I later discovered that I, in my dark skin, am sometimes not even a person to the people who look at me. Instead, in spite of my peacefulness, my committed opposition to all aggression and war, I am a threat by my very existence, a threat just living in the world as a Muslim body.

Upon my departure, he called the local police department and told them a man of Middle Eastern descent driving a heavily decaled white Beetle with out of state plates and no campus parking sticker had just placed a box next to the trash can. My car has New York plates, but he got the rest of it wrong. I have two stickers on my car. One is my highly visible faculty parking sticker and the other, which I just don't have the heart to take off these days, says "Kerry/Edwards: For a Stronger America."

Because of my recycling the bomb squad came, the state police came. Because of my recycling buildings were evacuated, classes were canceled, campus was closed. No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark body. No. Not because of my dark body. Because of his fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the culture of fear, mistrust, hatred, and suspicion that is carefully cultivated in the media, by the government, by people who claim to want to keep us safe.

These are the days of orange alert, school lock-downs, and endless war. We are preparing for it, training for it, looking for it, and so of course, in the most innocuous of places--a professor wanting to hurry home, hefting his box of discarded poetry--we find it.

That man in the parking lot didn't even see me. He saw my darkness. He saw my Middle Eastern descent. Ironic because though my grandfathers came from Egypt, I am Indian, a South Asian, and could never be mistaken for a Middle Eastern man by anyone who'd ever met one.

One of my colleagues was in the gathering crowd, trying to figure out what had happened. She heard my description--a Middle Eastern man driving a white beetle with out of state plates--and knew immediately they were talking about me and realized that the box must have been manuscripts I was discarding. She approached them and told them I was a professor on the faculty there. Immediately the campus police officer said, "What country is he from?"

"What country is he from?!" she yelled, indignant.

"Ma'am, you are associated with the suspect. You need to step away and lower your voice," he told her.

At some length several of my faculty colleagues were able to get through to the police and get me on a cell phone where I explained to the university president and then to the state police that the box contained old poetry manuscripts that needed to be recycled. The police officer told me that in the current climate I needed to be more careful about how I behaved. "When I recycle?" I asked.

The university president appreciated my distress about the situation but denied that the call had anything to do with my race or ethnic background. The spokesperson of the university called it an "honest mistake," not referring to the young man from ROTC giving in to his worst instincts and calling the police but referring to me who made the mistake of being dark-skinned and putting my recycling next to the trashcan.

The university's bizarrely minimal statement lets everyone know that the "suspicious package" beside the trashcan ended up being, indeed, trash. It goes on to say, "We appreciate your cooperation during the incident and remind everyone that safety is a joint effort by all members of the campus community."

What does that community mean to me, a person who has to walk by the ROTC offices every day on my way to my own office just down the hall--who was watched, noted, and reported, all in a days work? Today we gave in willingly and whole-heartedly to a culture of fear and blaming and profiling. It is deemed perfectly appropriate behavior to spy on one another and police one another and report on one another. Such behaviors exist most strongly in closed and undemocratic and fascist societies.

The university report does not mention the root cause of the alarm. That package became "suspicious" because of who was holding it, who put it down, who drove away. Me.

It was poetry, I kept insisting to the state policeman who was questioning me on the phone. It was poetry I was putting out to be recycled.

My body exists politically in a way I can not prevent. For a moment today, without even knowing it, driving away from campus in my little beetle, exhausted after a day of teaching, listening to Justin Timberlake on the radio, I ceased to be a person when a man I had never met looked straight through me and saw the violence in his own heart. [Link]

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Ethnic identities questioned after Virginia Tech

In the aftermath of last week’s Virginia Tech massacre, the national Korean-American community has reportedly suffered a backlash similar to that unleashed against Muslims in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, but Asian Americans on campus largely agree that they are being treated with respect and sympathy and credited the media’s portrayal of the attack as objective and fair.

A number of Facebook groups, such as “Cho Seung-Hui does NOT represent Asians,” are continuously amassing new members, while a YouTube post with the words “I belong in Korea” over Cho’s face is receiving hundreds of hits per day.

While the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was South Korean, other ethnic groups have expressed empathy for Asians in the wake of last week’s attack. Ahmed Ashraf ‘07, vice president of the Muslim Student Awareness Network, said he had similar fears before the identity of the shooter was disclosed.

“I know that when I first heard about the Virginia Tech tragedy, I was very, very nervous about the gunman’s background,” Ashraf said in an email to the Daily. “If a Muslim student were involved in the massacre, it [would have] hit way too close to home.”

Media coverage of the shootings has drawn an ambiguous reaction from Asian students and faculty members at the University.

“This shows that race and ethnicity is still a key source of collective identity in the United States,” said Sociology Prof. Gi-Wook Shin. “Non-white ethnic groups and females can be self-conscious and extra careful precisely because they are still minorities in American politics of identity.”

Others said they were pleased with the focus on Cho’s mental state, rather than his ethnicity.

“The media has been pretty good at being neutral,” said Kenny Kim ‘08, co-president of the Korean Students Association. “As a member of the Asian-American community, I was inclined to think of the worst possible outcomes, but the discussion has now turned more to Cho’s mental health than to his ethnic background.” [Link]


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More Korean Reactions to Shooting Rampage

Korean-Americans’ fear of a backlash from the campus massacre at Virginia Tech eased a bit when mainstream news media began focusing on issues that concern all Americans, such as mental illness, gun control and campus security, rather than the ethnicity of the gunman.

Their anxiety, however, was understandable. Koreans cannot forget the nightmares that resulted from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, in which they were targeted and more than 2,000 Korean-owned businesses were destroyed.

On April 17, when the news about the gunman Seung-hui Cho broke, Seung-wook Lee, president of the Korean Students Association, convened an emergency meeting to prepare Korean students emotionally for possible verbal abuses or physical attacks.

Korean students attending Virginia Tech were on edge. “We are hesitating to go to the school’s cafeteria for fear of possible retaliation,” a student said. “We gather in threes or fours when we go out. Some stayed in their dormitory all day long.” Some who came from Korea were thinking about returning to Korea, Lee said. Some 1,000 Korean students, including hundreds from Korea, are enrolled at Virginia Tech, he said.

At Westfield High School in Chantilly, Virginia, the gunman’s old school, tension was evident. Several Korean students reportedly were deliberately hit with backpacks.

In Los Angeles, several Korean students were physically attacked at a junior high school near Koreatown, according to Jenny Kim, a parent of an eighth-grader. The school authority told the parents they were investigating the report, she said.

In Korea, the anxiety level is running just as high. Many students who were preparing to apply for colleges in the United States are rethinking their plans. At a consulting agency in Seoul which specializes in helping Korean students find a foreign school, some students withdrew their applications for study in the United States, even though they had already paid the deposit of $2,000.

At the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, only a dozen Koreans showed up on April 19 to apply for a U.S. visa. The line of people waiting each day outside the office used to average about 100 yards long. [Link]


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Monday, April 23, 2007

Some glad Cho didn't share their ethnicity

When the first news reports about Monday's Virginia Tech shootings came out, a fearful thought crossed Will Li's mind.

"I hope he's not Chinese," Li, a 36-year-old University of Arizona employee, said he told a friend.

Anantha Raman Krishnan, a UA engineering doctoral student, was relieved when he first heard the shooting suspect was Asian. He knew right away the suspect was not East Asian like him.

And Aamir Shaalan, an Egyptian Muslim, was almost elated to learn it was not a Muslim responsible for murdering 32 people, the worst killing of its kind in this country.
"I can't imagine what the backlash would have been," said Shaalan, 27, an engineering graduate student.

Such is the state of race-related sentiments felt by some religious and ethnic minorities in Tucson in response to horrific crimes: Let's hope it's not one of us.

In a post 9/11 America, foreigners in our midst are on their edge.

I understood their feelings. I had a similar reaction when I first read of the shootings. I was cringing at the thought of the consequences if the Virginia Tech killer was discovered to be a Latino immigrant or, heaven forbid, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

The jeers and I-told-you-so rants from the anti-Mexican and anti-undocumented-immigrant folks would have been deafening. When an undocumented immigrant commits a crime in Tucson or the country, it adds another strand of heavy gauge wire in support of building a border fence.

But, as sick as it sounds, fortunately for Latino undocumented immigrants the killer turned out to be a South Korean-born, 23-year-old English major.
However, no sooner than Seung-Hui Cho was identified, he was tagged as a resident alien, which he was. But it didn't matter that Cho had lived more than half his life in the United States.

It did matter, however, to Koreans in this country and in their country. So fearful of retribution of any kind or even the hint of resentment, the Korean community in this country apologized for Cho's slaughter of students and faculty members, some of whom were from abroad.

Cho's family, who according to some press reports have left their Virginia home, released a statement expressing sorrow for the Virginia Tech victims.

Even South Korean President Roh Moo-hyan expressed his country's condolences. South Korea's ambassador to the U.S. suggested Koreans in America fast for 32 days to honor the dead, according to The Associated Press.

The good news is that there have been no reports of violence or anger aimed at Koreans or Korean-Americans after the killing spree ended when Cho committed suicide.
Krishnan, who is from southern India, understood the Korean community's reaction. He called it natural. But he also called it irrational that some people would scorn a whole ethnic group for the crimes of a single person.

But our reaction to questions of race, ethnic and religious relations is often irrational.

When a foreigner does something horrible in this country, too much focus is placed on the person's origin, said Bebe Mufti, a South African-born Muslim of Pakistani parents.

To some people, the sense of dread felt by others after the Virginia Tech killings is overblown. Maybe it is, but it's real to people like Li, who came from China six years ago.

"It still doesn't feel good," he said. "The killer is Asian." [Link]


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Stem any anti-Asian backlash

As Americans, we all are still reeling from the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech. Our prayers and hearts go out to the victims, their families, friends and community.

The Asian community, along with the rest of the world, mourns this devastating loss of innocent lives — the result of the senseless act of one mentally unbalanced person. Seung-Hui Cho does not represent any group. That he was Asian does not mean anything. Violence is colorblind.

Upon learning that the shooter was Asian, my first reaction, like that of many other Asians: apprehension. Our history shows that whenever tragedy occurs, the identification of the perpetrator may trigger prejudicial or retaliation against anyone who looks like him. At Virginia Tech, some Korean students went home because they feared being the target of a backlash. Thank God, this did not happen.

We should not be led by prejudice and fear. For the healing to begin, we need to focus on the victims — the dead, the injured and their families, including the gunman's family.

This massacre makes us stop and ask the larger questions: Why? Did any person or system fail to act in a way that could have prevented this violence? What about mental illness, gun control, safety in our schools, etc.?

These questions, this discussion unfortunately seems to be never ending. Haven't we learned from the past? We are all members of the same family, the human race. No one wants these tragedies repeated, but they are. I ask each one of you to ask yourself this question: "Will I do all I can to prevent such a tragedy from happening again?"

Preventing such tragedies starts with just a simple act of compassion and kindness — of loving and caring for our neighbors. It starts with you and me making a difference to those around us. Because "There, but by the grace of God, am I." [Link]


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Feelings of guilt by association

But does the ethnicity of gunman really matter?

Like so many Americans, I was glued to the television Monday, watching horrifying images of wounded students at Virginia Tech as the day unfolded. But I grew even more troubled when I heard the first reports that the shooter might be Asian.

Here we go again, I thought. My wife and I watched nervously, desperately hoping that he would not turn out to be Korean or Korean-American. When the media speculated that he was from China, I must admit to some relief. To my dismay, police confirmed that he was Korean-American. His name was Cho Seung-Hui.

My initial reaction to the shootings was, like anyone else, shock, disgust, sadness and disbelief. Then I began to worry about the possible backlash. Would the mainstream media portray this troubled man not as an individual on a rampage but as a racialized and stereotyped Asian? Would they fall back on the usual characterizations: quiet, hardworking but seething under tremendous pressure to excel in school?

Cho's ethnic background will undoubtedly trigger questions about what set off this Asian-American male. But how much, if anything, does his ethnicity really have to do with what happened?

Cho had a history of anger and emotional problems, according to media accounts. He reportedly was taking medication for depression. Many people, and certainly a lot of overworked, stressed young students, suffer from similar conditions. Something snapped in this young man, and something went terribly wrong.

According to some reports, Cho's parents own and operate a dry-cleaning business, and they were so shocked by the events they have been hospitalized.

I'm sure that many Korean-Americans will feel somehow responsible for this one Korean-American student's action. This could have been done by anybody who suffers from severe depression or a mental disorder and is not properly treated. And yet, I, too, somehow feel responsible. Why? As someone of Korean ancestry, I feel a cultural connection and almost a moral responsibility for his actions. Many in the Korean community are mourning the very idea that a Korean is responsible for these senseless deaths.

As we approach the 15th anniversary of the civil unrest in Los Angeles, the Korean-American community there still vividly remembers how the mainstream media portrayed Korean immigrant merchants as gun-toting vigilantes, defending their stores as Los Angeles burned in 1992 -- and we are still trying to overcome that stereotype. There are more than 500,000 Koreans in Los Angeles, the largest enclave outside of Asia, and this is the image many Americans have of them.

The Asian-American community has long complained about the absence of Asian-American faces in popular media. Even the initial media report of the shooter as Chinese reminds me of how Asian-Americans all "look alike" to those outside the community. It would be grossly unfair to blame an entire community for the act of one member, but all Asian-American communities -- not just Korean ones -- may be tainted by this tragedy.

The reality, however, is that Cho came to the U.S. when he was 8 years old and, at the time of his death, was 23 and an English major at Virginia Tech. In other words, he probably spoke fluent English and was culturally Americanized. He probably didn't know much about Korea and Korean culture. And yet the headlines read: "Cho Seung-Hui from South Korea."

I don't mean to suggest that there's no truth at all to some of the stereotypes about Asian-Americans. It is often true that Asian-Americans are hardworking or academically successful. Cho's parents probably did struggle to send him to college. Many Korean-American students do grow up under heavy pressure to excel in school. Growing up as typical "model minority" students, many Asian-American students find themselves having to cope with repressed anger, anxiety and rage.

Maybe Cho was under tremendous pressure to succeed. Or maybe his rampage had nothing to do with academic pressure but was caused by a failed romance or a deep depression. We may never know what triggered these senseless shootings.

I will not be able to completely shake my sense of responsibility as a Korean-American for this tragedy. But I'm going to try. And when young people are stressed or depressed, let us reach out across all ethnic and racial boundaries and try to help them see that, in every culture, violence is not the solution. [Link]


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Eastern Connecticut Koreans fear backlash after shooting

Pastor Shinyong "Daniel" Song, a South Korean pastor who ministers to about a dozen South Koreans in Norwich, said he and his congregation have felt a tinge of guilt after the Virginia Tech massacre.

The shooter behind the killings was South Korean and in South Korea, Song said, people think as a group, or as a congregation. And, with the heated climate surrounding immigration nationwide, Song also felt concern about potential backlash against him and fellow South Koreans.

"I worry about that," he said, between preaching at two services Sunday at the First Baptist Church, which provides space for his church.

Hundreds of South Koreans held a candlelight vigil Saturday in South Korea for the Virginia Tech massacre victims, the country's largest such gathering since the shootings in the United States by a South Korean-born student.

The gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, came with his family to the United States more than 14 years ago.

"Koreans are extremely embarrassed and feel shameful as a result of Cho's actions. At any rate, we are sorry for what happened," former college professor Yae Young-soo said in a speech at a makeshift podium near Seoul's City Hall.

South Korean government officials have sent repeated condolence messages to the United States, and Internet message boards are overflowing with similar sentiments. U.S. diplomats have sought to reassure South Korea the shooting will not affect the two nations' tight relationship.

But the participants at Saturday's event -- including military veterans, Christians and conservatives -- expressed lingering concern about a possible fray in U.S. relations and a racial backlash against South Koreans and Korean-Americans there.

Song, the Norwich pastor, said the Virginia Tech killings may bring to light another issue: the plight of immigrant children, many of whom struggle to gain an identity when they arrive in the United States and are often left at home while their parents work long hours.

"My role as an immigrant pastor is to care for the kids," he said, adding a community center would also help meet their needs. "A lot of kids are home alone. That's a problem with immigrants."

Bennick Tan, part owner of the Red House pan-Asian restaurant in downtown Norwich, said Asian-Americans may sense an initial backlash from the shootings. But he said the best reaction is to let time heal the wounds and not to dwell on the negative. Tan said better gun control is one of the answers.

"Anybody could do it," said Tan, who is Malaysian, of the killer. "It doesn't matter about the color. It's about people, human beings. Anyone with mental problems could do the same."[Link]


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After VT Shooting, Ethnic Backlash?

As media reports of the Virginia Tech shootings have cast attention on the ethnicity of killer Seung-Hui Cho, a South Korean immigrant, some students are worried that the events might fuel a backlash against other Asian Americans.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Virginia Tech community first and foremost. Beyond that, a lot of us were cognizant that there could be backlash, some even feared physical backlash, for Asians and Asian Americans in the rest of the country,” said Edward H. Thai ’07, a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association (AAA) and the Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association.

In the days since last Monday’s shooting, groups have emerged on Facebook with titles such as “Guns Don’t Kill People, Asian Kids at VT do...” and “Asian dude + a gun = 33 killed and I’m pissed,” prompting concerned discussion on the AAA’s e-mail list.

“Some people were trying to report the groups and have them shut down. Others of us tried to engage in discussion with the more discriminatory Facebook users,” Thai said.

Other students interviewed by The Crimson were not concerned about a backlash on Harvard’s campus.

“Harvard students know it’s not about race but about someone who is mentally ill,” said Christopher M. Pak ’08, co-president of the Harvard Korean Students Association.

Pak said he thinks the Facebook groups are largely the work of high school students.

But Pak said he is concerned that mainstream media outlets have referred to the shooter as Cho Seung-Hui rather than the reverse, Seung-Hui Cho.

“They reversed his name in the way that you would say it in Korean, where you put the family name first,” Pak said.

“That’s not how he nor his family referred to him. The fact that they were doing that portrayed him as less American,” he added.

The Asian American Journalists Association, a non-profit organization that seeks “fair and accurate coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” issued a statement urging media outlets to avoid unnecessarily identifying the shooter’s race.

“There is no evidence at this early point that the race or ethnicity of the suspected gunman has anything to do with the incident, and to include such mention serves only to unfairly portray an entire people,” the organization said.

“Columbine didn’t focus on how the two shooters were white; it focused on the fact that they were loners, whereas you can already see stories coming out where you have sociologists coming out saying that it has something to do with his Asianess or his immigrant status,” Thai said. “They usually don’t mention that he’s been living in the U.S. since age eight, which pretty much makes him as American as anybody else.”

Others on campus are less concerned.

“I haven’t been paying that much attention to the media coverage but I didn’t really see anything that I thought was particularly offensive or wrong, but I’m a very difficult person to offend,” said Weichen Zhu ‘07, a subscriber to the AAA e-mail list. “I can see more people are more sensitive to this issue than I am.” [Link]


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When Stereotypes Stalk Tragedy

Please don't let him be Jewish.

Please don't let him be black.

Please don't let him be Chinese, Japanese or Korean. (Or even Pacific Islander.)

Such were the prayers of men and women across the nation who feared a backlash from stereotypes of a killer, especially a mass murderer of such evil as the shooter at Virginia Tech. When portraits of a villain fill the television screens, it's easy for good people to look to their comfortable prejudices for explanations. Blaming race, religion, ethnicity and culture seems more reasonable than accepting the randomness of one madman.

The Asian American Journalists' Association urged editors and reporters to "avoid using racial identifiers unless there is a compelling or germane reason" (and by urging restraint in the name of Asian journalists neatly identified the killer's ethnicity). The public naturally wants to learn everything it can about someone who commits such a heinous act. Reporters look for every angle to explain motive, raising questions about race along with questions of sociology and psychology. Cho Seung-Hui, age 23, had lived in the United States since he was 8, and had spent those first eight years in his native Seoul. That's simply a fact, and Koreans here and there are particularly sensitive about it.

An editorial in the Korea Herald, a Seoul newspaper, expressed shock and sadness over the murder of 32 students and called the young man "one rotten apple," but certainly not acting on behalf of Koreans or the Korean government. No one had suggested that he did, but the newspaper, perhaps typical, worries that "the shocking incident will taint the good image that the Korean community and the Korean nation have strived to build among Americans."

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed shock and sent two messages of condolence and consolation to Virginia Tech. Official representatives of the South Korean government said they would work to prevent a backlash and " minimize the impact on the South Korea-U.S. alliance further strengthened by the conclusion of a bilateral free trade deal."

Shallow generalizations always do harm, and there was nervous anticipation in Korean neighborhoods where families expected bigotry to surface. Asian bloggers feared sociologists would use the profile of the killer to describe the "fragile egos" of Asian men. Others fretted that glib comparisons would dredge up the image of Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II, who used themselves as flying bombs targeted at American warships. Still others were concerned about a proliferation of condescending and patronizing stories about "good" Koreans.[Link]


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Plan to throw the books at violence

Sikhs hope library effort will reduce attacks

Rajinder Singh Khalsa is tired of the insults — or worse — hurtled at him on the street because he wears a turban. Khalsa, who is Sikh, was beaten in Richmond Hill three years ago by five men when he intervened on behalf of a fellow Sikh they were mocking.

Khalsa tried to explain the significance of their turbans to the men, who told him to “get out of this country,” before they broke his nose and fractured his eye socket.

Now, he is hoping a new library project launched recently by the nonprofit Sikh Coalition could combat bias with education. The project aims to place a packages of 10 books and two DVDs in every library in North America.

“I think if people will know more about our culture, then they will not be going to attack us,” Khalsa said. “Because of the turban, they think you’re a Taliban or you’re Bin Laden. They think we’re Iranian, but we come from Northern India. ... This is the fifth largest religion in the world.”

Khalsa’s attackers were eventually found guilty of a hate crime, receiving sentences ranging from five days to two years in state prison. But Khalsa said people in his community continue to be victims of hate crimes.

A few days ago, some young people threw stones and broke the window of his friend’s storefront in Rockaway.

“When I came to America, I was thinking I was in a place where I finally can live freely and safely,” said Khalsa, a Queens resident who operated a car service before his injuries.

“I don’t know where in the world I would feel safe,” Khalsa said. He left India for fear of religious persecution.

The coalition is calling on their community to donate the packages to their local libraries and have received orders from libraries in New York, Boston, Wisconsin, Ohio, Georgia, Rhode Island, Ontario and beyond, said Manbeena Kaur, the Sikh Coalition’s operations manager.

“A lot of libraries don’t have any information on Sikh, or even if they do, it might be outdated,” Kaur said.

Khalsa, who donated books to a library in Texas where some of his Sikh friends live, said, “Sikh means ‘student of life’ and this time I want to save my people from ignorance.”

Building up

The Sikh Coalition spent a year and a half reviewing more than 50 books and DVDS — and even traveling to India to talk to authors and publishers of out of print editions — before culling the selection and it worked with a librarian from the city’s University Club, who wrote synopses for the books. They expect the project to take five years. [Link]

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South Koreans show humility and grace in aftermath of massacre

Dear South Korea:

Please stop apologizing. It is not your fault.

Don't get us wrong. It is touching and impressive how you, as a nation, seem crestfallen over the trail of death left on an American college campus by an immigrant from your land. You have held candlelight vigils at our embassy and your president has expressed shock – three times, so far.

But, really, the suspect came to America as a child. He was raised here. Maybe we should be apologizing to you for not taking better care of him. Or maybe the ugly twists that the human spirit can take are just unfathomable.

We are dismayed that you worry about a misdirected backlash against your citizens who have emigrated here. Most of us would like to think America is better than that. But we also recall that, after 9/11, some ignorant people attacked Sikh Americans in the preposterous belief that their turbans marked them as members of al-Qaeda.

Obviously we need to work on our behavior and international image.

So we accept your apologies, unnecessary as they are – as lessons in grace and humanity.

The best thing we could do in response is to learn from what your conduct teaches.

Sometimes, we Americans have a hard time owning up to the stupid and shameful things we really have done collectively: holding slaves, profiling minorities on highways, outsourcing torture. Sometimes, as with the Japanese Americans interned during World War II, we get around to saying we're sorry. More often, we don't....

We're young, still learning.

So, thank you for the fine example you set. [Link]


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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Asians anxious in wake of massacre

Asian Americans in the Greater Seattle area say they’re concerned about possible backlash or even retribution as word spreads quickly about the identity of the gunman responsible for the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history.

Police say 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning, then turned the gun on himself. Police have not offered a motive for the massacre that left scores of students and professors wounded or dead.

The list of fatalities included at least two Asian American students and two professors originally from India.

Cho, who might have been taking medication to treat depression, also died at the scene.

Reports say the 6-foot-tall Cho was a senior English major at Virginia Tech. He was born in South Korea but raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., since he was a young boy. His parents, residents of Centreville, Va., reportedly run a dry-cleaning business.

For Korean Americans especially, the tragedy is hitting close to home. Though they don’t personally know Cho or his family, local Korean Americans share a cultural and ethnic background with them.

“I’m very ashamed,” admitted Buwon Brown, a community volunteer who is Korean American.

Dong Lee, an editor at the Korea Central Daily News’ office in Seattle, said the community was “very shocked, very saddened by the news.”

The state’s only Korean American legislator, Paull Shin, said he was watching the news early Tuesday morning as he was getting dressed. He “collapsed” when he heard the gunman was a fellow Korean American. “I could not face the reality. How could this have happened? I lost my control,” Shin recounted.

Later that day, the Edmonds legislator took the floor of the Senate chambers to apologize on behalf of the Korean American community. He told his fellow senators, “This (shooting) really affects me deeply. I’m sorry.” Afterwards, his colleagues came over to console him and to emphasize that the shootings were not his fault or the Korean community’s.

“The act of an individual”

Asian Americans are reminding themselves, and especially others, of the same.

In a statement released nationwide Tuesday, the Japanese American Citizens League cautioned people not to take out their anger on people of Asian descent. “While it has been confirmed that the gunman was Asian, there is no evidence that race or ethnicity of the suspected gunman had anything to do with the incident,” the statement said.

“The JACL emphasizes that this tragedy must be seen as the act of an individual and not that of an ethnic community.”

The Organization of Chinese Americans, including the group’s Greater Seattle chapter president, Victor King, issued similar concerns.

Still, there has been plenty of talk, especially online, about the gunman’s ethnic background. Soloman Kim, president of the Korean American Coalition in Seattle, came across some of it while searching the Internet for news about the shooting.

“Reading some comments posted on the Web yesterday, there was quite a bit of racial commentary that was very, very negative. Actually, quite disturbing. It was about shipping everyone back (to Korea) … and things being said about the Asian community in general,” Kim said.
He, like many others, fears a backlash.

“I just don’t want people to take this in the wrong context and retaliate by hurting or attacking … innocent people who are trying to be good citizens, trying to contribute to American society,” Kim said.

The president of the Korean American Professionals Society, Jesse Adams, said he was “bothered that the media focuses so much on the fact that the shooter was a ‘resident alien.’” Though Cho had been in the U.S. for a number of years, he was not a naturalized citizen.

“This type of language could stir up racial prejudices toward all minorities trying to immigrate to the U.S.,” Adams said.

Kim said the Korean consulate called an emergency meeting with community leaders on Tuesday to come up with a unified response to the shootings.
“We need to denounce it (and) be very, very clear about what this person did. It was a horrendous act that goes far beyond anything we all expect of one another,” Kim said.

Already, fund-raisers have been set up in the Korean community to help the victims and their families. Shin said he hopes the gesture will convey the message that the Korean community cares — that “we … are with you and we support you.”

Locally, four Korean-language media outlets, along with the Korean Association of Washington, have banded together to raise money for the victims’ families. Radio Hankook, KOAM-TV, the Korea Times and the Korea Central Daily News have begun collecting money that will be forwarded to a victims’ fund. (To donate, contact any of those media offices.)

Nationally, the Korean American Coalition has joined other Korean organizations to establish the Virginia Tech Memorial Fund, which also will help the victims and their families. (To donate to that fund, send a check to Korean American Coalition, Attn: Virginia Tech Memorial Fund, 1001 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 730, Washington, D.C. 20036.)

One community activist doesn’t think there will be a backlash against the Korean or Asian communities. Though Nadine Shiroma realizes the temptation is there among some people, she believes “our nation has matured enough” to realize that “the actions of one individual do not define our community any more than the actions of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh define the white community.”

Almost everyone interviewed for this article was quick to point out that the shooter could have been of any race or ethnicity.

“I wasn’t concerned about what the ethnicity of the shooter might be when the news first broke out, and now that I know, I still don’t believe it’s relevant,” Adams said.

“It was a single act of violence, and what we should do now is grieve and move on,” he said, “focusing not on the ethnic background of the shooter, but on how to support and help the victims’ families and friends.”

“This can happen to anybody, any Korean, any other American. It’s very much an individual case,” stressed Lee, of the Korea Central Daily News. “Everyone has the responsibility to solve problems through peace and love, not through hate. I hope the community doesn’t focus on the (gunman being) Korean.”

In early reports of the tragedy, some news outlets, including the Chicago Sun-Times, incorrectly identified the assailant as being Chinese.

Media coverage

Charles Liu, a Chinese American resident of Issaquah, is among those disturbed by the mainstream media’s coverage of the tragedy. He said he is seeing too many headlines focused unfairly on the shooter’s birthplace.

“The fact is, the gunman … immigrated to the United States when he was (young), indicating his actions were the results of his experiences in America, not South Korea. … Also, it’s been widely reported that Cho is an undergraduate English major at VT. Most foreign students come to America for post-graduate study. With little history in the U.S. or command of the language, most do not choose this study. …

“This, by all accounts, is an American tragedy,” Liu pointed out.

Within hours of the killings, the Asian American Journalists Association, a nonprofit that represents about 2,000 members in the United States and Asia, began sending e-mails nationwide urging news outlets to be mindful of how they refer to the shooter’s race and ethnicity.

“We understand the need to research the background of Seung-Hui Cho … but we are disturbed by some 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,” read the AAJA statement.

“We remind the media that the use of racial and other identifiers must be accompanied with context and relevance. Without it, we open the door to subjecting an entire people to unfair treatment or portrayal based on their skin color or national heritage.”

Time to stand together

Like everyone who has been following news of this massacre, local Asian Americans are saddened by the loss of so many innocent lives. It’s especially heartbreaking that this country has lost some of its future leaders, said architect and community volunteer Dennis Su. “But I am not surprised, since this is a country of extreme violence,” he said.

Brown, a community activist, urges parents to teach their children, no matter how old they are, how to deal with anger and stress. She added that she thinks America needs tougher gun-control laws.

Some have also expressed sympathy for Cho and called for the community to take better care of its young people.

“I can only imagine how desperate he must have felt when he perceived that there were no remaining choices,” said local community activist Maria Batayola, who is Filipina American. “Such a loss for all of us when there is so much promise in the young people whose lives were cut short.”

This is no time for Korean Americans and other Asians to lay low, according to the president of Seattle’s Korean American Coalition.

“It’s important to not just cower and be silent, but to come forth” to condemn the incident, Kim believes.

Batayola agrees. “I hope that we can stand together as a community to not feel shame around him being Asian,” she said.

If or when there is a backlash, she wants the Asian Pacific American community to “stand together” and “help people move through their angst.”

“It’s important to reach out at this time,” Batayola added. [Link]


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Koreans in midstate fear backlash

Shippensburg University professor Hong Rim was shocked when he learned that Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho was South Korean.

But Rim, who is Korean, said that shock became concern when he learned a man of Korean descent was abducted in Derry Twp. a day after Cho killed 32 people and himself on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

A 29-year-old Alpine Heights man was jogging near his apartment Tuesday when a group of men abducted him, threatened him and released him in Shank Park, according to Derry Twp. police.

"There was limited conversation between the victim and the suspects," Derry Twp. Police Lt. Pat O'Rourke said yesterday. "He is Korean, but we're certainly not investigating this as a hate crime."

Hate crimes, according to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, can be motivated by a victim's race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

"We have been thinking about this since the Virginia Tech incident and wondering if there will be a backlash," said Ann Van Dyke, an investigator for the commission. "This is always a concern when the perpetrator is not white, Christian and male. When the perpetrator is white, Christian and male, no one assumes his race, sex or religion has anything to do with the crime.

"There are many people who are very quick to blame everyone who is similar to the perpetrator if the perpetrator is any way in the minority."

Midstate Koreans' grief over the Virginia Tech shooting is amplified by perceived connections to the shooter, religious and cultural leaders said.

"We have nothing to do with him, but he was identified as a South Korean, and people might now feel differently [about us]," said Rim, the president of the Central Pennsylvania Korean Association board. "But he could have been anyone.

"We want to be a part of American society, and we are shocked also. [Cho had] a social problem, a psychological problem, not a Korean problem or any other ethnic group." [Link]


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Korean-American groups express sorrow, avoid guilt

Korean-Americans burdened with guilt, shame and fear of backlash

For Korean-Americans, the realization of a shared ethnicity with Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho has left many trying to untangle a complex web of emotions. Shock that someone could commit such a horrific act of violence. Anguish for the victims.

And the unfounded fear - common among virtually any ethnic minority - that the actions of one might taint the whole, says Gie Kim, president of the Washington chapter of the Korean American Coalition.

"Everyone I talked to - black, Jewish, Korean, whatever - we were all hoping it wasn't one of us," she said. "I think that reaction is pretty universal across the board."

Said Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council: "It's something you hear all the time, when something unspeakable happens. If it happens to have been a Jewish person, there's always, 'Oh, what kind of reaction to this will there be? Why did this person have to be Jewish?'"

The fear comes from past experiences of discrimination. "I don't know if there is anyone of any ethnic group who would not have that feeling," Abramson said. "It has to do with stereotypes and past history and a legacy of discrimination against certain ethnic groups."

Last week's disbelief grew into a collective expression of sorrow, when the Korean American Coalition - a national advocacy group - established a fund for Virginia Tech victims. Locally, the Korean Society of Maryland is taking part in the effort and plans to honor the victims in a memorial tomorrow at the Korean American Church of Philippi in Columbia. Similar vigils have been organized by community groups nationwide.

David Han, president of the Korean Society of Maryland, said the memorial is an expression of empathy and grief for the victims' families. Nevertheless, some people have asked him whether the memorial serves to express a sense of collective responsibility. And if so, why?

"We are not taking ownership of this tragic event, but we wanted to show that we are good citizens of the community," said Han. "But we could not pretend that it was none of our business. The whole nation is showing sorrow and pain.

"Everyone asks us, 'Why?' Well, if we didn't do anything, people would be looking at the Korean community asking, 'Well, why are they being so quiet? What's wrong with the Korean community?'"

Kim has been asked similar questions and noted that the Korean American Coalition has organized victim funds in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the South Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

Even so, other observers acknowledged that the tragedy hits home for Korean-Americans, and some are coping not only with feelings of mourning, but collective shame.

First-generation Koreans tend to have a cultural sense of shared responsibility, said Adrian Hong, a board member of the Mirae Foundation, a national organization of Korean-American college students. "If something good happens to one, it happens to all Koreans, and if something bad happens to one, it happens to all of them," he said.

Kyeyoung Park, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles and member at the university's Center for Korean Studies, said that because Korean culture tends to be homogeneous, new immigrants rely on one another emotionally.

"In Western culture there is an emphasis on guilt; in many Eastern cultures the emphasis is on shame," she said. "I think Korean-Americans want to do something because they feel ashamed. Some of them feel truly responsible, even though it is ridiculous to think they are responsible for the action of this person."

Park said some first-generation immigrants identified with the comments of South Korean Ambassador Lee Tae-sik, who said not only do Korean-Americans feel ashamed but called for them to "repent." He suggested a 32-day fast - one day for each victim of Monday's carnage.

But Hong, with the Mirae Foundation, said many second- and third-generation immigrants reject that sense of culpability. Hong, who said he attended the Fairfax vigil in which Lee made the comments, was outraged by the remarks.

"It's not appropriate, and it's not necessary," he said. "The overwhelming majority of naturalized Korean-Americans would say, 'You don't speak for us.'"

Instead, in the way that Sept. 11 brought an outcry from Arab-Americans, some Korean-Americans are fearful of a backlash, he said. Hong said he has received anecdotal accounts of Korean-American students whose car tires have been slashed and car windows broken.

"When you look at the collective experience of minorities in this country, I think there have been many incidents where the actions of one or two individuals have been used as an excuse to attack or persecute the larger group," he said. "That's no secret."

Park said the news media's early identification of the shooter's race, country of origin and immigration status - with few other characteristics - helped to solidify stereotypes, which some Korean-Americans took personally.

"Mainstream society really singled out the race and ethnicity of the shooter," she said. "They kept calling him a 'resident alien' as though he were from the moon. I think that only reminded Korean-Americans that they are viewed as outsiders and that no matter how long you live here, you really are seen as a foreigner."

Han said he hopes tomorrow's vigils serve as an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to come together in the aftermath of an American tragedy:

"We want to do something that shows that we all share in the sorrow and the pain of what happened at Virginia Tech." [Link]


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