Asian Americans fear backlash for Virginia Tech
The tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16 seized the nation's attention. World-class journalists and student bloggers alike waited anxiously for investigators to release the identity of the man who killed 32 people and shot several others in the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
By the next day, the shooter was publicly identified as Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui, a resident alien from South Korea.
But after images and articles related to Cho's life began to flood the media, Asian Americans at the University said they had another reason to mourn the tragedy - it could reflect on them.
Psychology Prof. Phillip Akutsu said because Asian Americans don't often receive media attention, focus on the shooter's nationality was painful for the Asian American community.
"The tragedy in and of itself was very, very sad," said Akutsu, who studies mental illness in Asian Americans. "But to see an Asian American face was even more so. We hear so little about Asian Americans in the news to begin with."
Several Asian students said they were stunned to find out the shooter was Asian.
"My initial reaction - I was shocked and ashamed to be Asian," said LSA sophomore Jae Jun Hong, who is a South Korean international student from Dubai. "I wouldn't expect an Asian to do that."
Hong said he doesn't think Asian Americans should feel guilty about the tragedy, but that he fears the incident will cast Koreans in a negative light.
"I live in Dubai, but somehow, even there, we represent Korea," he said.
The day the shooting happened, Hong's mother called him from Dubai to make sure he was handling the news all right. She also worried that Hong would be harassed.
Hong said he didn't experience any harassment, but the concerns Hong's mother expressed over potential backlash toward Asians echo the fears of several members of the University's Asian community.
Recent University graduate C.C. Song, who was a member of the University's chapter of the United Asian American Organization, said many Asian American students told her they were worried about being persecuted on campus because of Virginia Tech.
"They are afraid anti-Asian American sentiment will arise, understanding that the after storm of 9/11 did affect Pacific Rim Asians and Muslims," she said.
Both Hong and Song said they thought the media put unwarranted emphasis on Cho's ethnicity that they feared the tragedy could damage people's perception of Asian immigrants. [Link]
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