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Monday, April 30, 2007

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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