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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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