When news of the Virginia Tech tragedy broke, Asian-Americans reacted with the same horror as everyone else.
But another concern loomed as reports surfaced that the shooter might be Asian, first from China and then South Korea.
Would there be a backlash against immigrants, or Asian-Americans in general, as in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks? Should they feel any responsibility? Or shame? Or fear?
Anne Saw, a University of Illinois graduate student and counselor, said she "didn't sleep a full night all week" in the days following the shootings.
"It's been hard for me to reconcile all my different feelings – sometimes guilt, sometimes anger, sometimes confusion," she said.
Saw and a dozen other Asian-American students aired their feelings Sunday night in a meeting with Eric Byler, a Chinese-American director in town for the Ninth Annual Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. Byler, who grew up in Virginia, has worked to promote Asian-American political candidates and more Asian-American representation on television.
In the days since the shootings, Asian-Americans at the UI have reported some backlash.
One student was asked, as she sat down in class, "Do you have a gun in your backpack?" Another had his chair shoved by a man who walked by him in a bar. When he asked why, the man replied, "Figure it out." A Filipino-American student walking through an off-campus parking lot said someone drove by her and shouted "Gook, go home!"
Asian-American students say they're getting "more looks and stares," and their friends at other campuses have been spit on, said graduate student Matthew Lee, who is also a counselor at the UI.
"It's kind of sad to say, but it's about what I expected," Saw said. [Link]
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