Gut Reactions

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Gut Reactions

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<a href="http://www.printculture.com/index.php?memberid=4">by S L Kim</a> | April 17, 2007

<b>1. Race Shame</b>

As soon as I saw the shooter&#39;s name--Cho Seung-Hui--in the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/17/us/17virginia.html?hp">NYT</a> this morning, I knew he was Korean. Crap. Ever since I got home last night after teaching, and my husband told me about the deadly shooting spree at Virginia Tech, I&#39;d been wondering, like everyone else, about the gunman. Knowing he was a "young Asian man" made me maybe slightly more curious than I normally might have been, and finding out his name made my heart sink a little more. He&#39;s being described in the NYT as a "South Korean who was a resident alien in the United States," a 23-year-old senior English major.

At first I imagined one of those Korean students who are sent to the US by themselves, as high school or college students, by families eager for them to get an American education at whatever cost. These students, with varying levels of English-speaking skills, are sent all over, to far-flung corners of the US. But it turns out that this "resident alien" came to the states with his family in 1992, when he was 7 or 8 years old. Wouldn&#39;t that make him, culturally speaking, an American? It&#39;s not so much that I&#39;m afraid of outbreaks of violence against Koreans or Asians in general, but I worry about the generalizations and pop psychology pablum that will reinforce ugly stereotypes and perpetuate tacit forms of racism in the name of "understanding what happened." You know, looking for things in his culture or his upbringing that might have contributed, all the while the implicit message is: watch out for the quiet Asian guys, because they might just go crazy.

<b>2. Media Rhetoric</b>

Already, the shooter is described as a "loner," already the profiles emerge about these killers on a rampage. The photos of him are now circulating, and he&#39;s described as expressionless. Apparently, <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-070417vtech-shootings,1,176236.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed">he left a note</a> with a list of grievances and he wrote disturbing stories in his creative writing class. It seems too easy to map the symptoms of pathology onto the stereotypical features of racial and ethnic identity. For a while last night, no one wanted to say whether the shooter was a student at VT, but it seemed pretty apparent to me that whoever did it was affiliated with the school in some significant way. But there&#39;s a strong impulse to distance ourselves from the killer among us, to imagine that it might have been random, unpredictable, even as we try to fit him into a knowable pattern. A student interviewed said he can&#39;t believe he used to say hi to such a "monster." Meanwhile, as we slowly learn more about the victims, the media can&#39;t help but paint the stark contrast between the happy, accomplished, and well-integrated students on one side and the angry loner who hated them on the other.

I don&#39;t think I can stand to watch the TV coverage of this event.

<b>3. Stupid Politics</b>

According to <a href="http://www.slate.com/id/2164337/?nav=fix">Slate</a> and other sources, the blogs on the left and right are abuzz about what could have been different in the gun laws to have prevented or at least curtailed the violence. There are people who actually believe that the answer to preventing this kind of gun violence is for more people to be able to carry concealed weapons. Fight force with equal force, they say. If law-abiding citizens were able to arm themselves, the idea goes, they&#39;d be able to step in and play the hero. I just don&#39;t buy it. I wouldn&#39;t want to be on a campus where I know some of those around me are packing heat.

<b>4. Campus Life</b>

I worry about what this event will do to the climate and conditions of university life. I worry that this will be used as an excuse by the state, the right, the short-sighted, self-interested politicians to meddle in university life in the name of "security." We know how well that&#39;s going on the national level.

<b>5. Across the Ocean</b>

I wonder how this event is being portrayed and talked about in the Korean media. Any thoughts, J Lee?

--

Original Source: <a href="http://www.printculture.com/index.php?itemid=1363">http://www.printculture.com/index.php?itemid=1363</a>

Licensed under <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0</a>.

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S L Kim

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2007-05-26

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Brent Jesiek

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

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eng

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S L Kim, "Gut Reactions," in The April 16 Archive, Item #263, http://april16archive.org/items/show/263 (accessed October 24, 2014).