depending on when I wake up in the morning, I usually try to listen to NPR as I'm getting ready for work. like most of the other people in this country, I was incredibly saddened as I listened to the coverage of the VA Tech tragedy... wondering how those students' lives have been affected... feeling sad for the families of the victims... etc. and then I heard them reveal the name of the shooter and the fact that he was a 23-year-old Korean kid, an English major from northern virginia.
and my heart sank even further.
and I can't really articulate why.
is it that he's Korean? is is the fact that they repeatedly referred to the guy as "South Korean student" even though he'd lived in the DC area since he was a kid? was it the fellow English major-ness? or the memories of mentoring younger Asian students in college and learning that Asian students have significantly higher rates of depression, mental instability, and suicide than their fellow college-age peers? maybe sadness at the fact that so many Asian kids are under intense pressure, yet lack the systems necessary to deal with it in a way that is both healthy and effective? I mean come on, to complete the stereotypes, his parents work at a dry cleaner. were they so busy working to chase the American dream that they forgot about their kid?
or maybe it was more just "shit. why did he have to be Korean? how is this going to affect his family? their community? the VA tech community? the larger Blacksburg community?" my friend Di pointed out that there is no rhyme or reason to mass murderers (in terms of ethnic profiles), yet for some strange, inexplicable reason I am bothered that the largest massacre to take place at an American university will be because of one Korean kid from NOVA.
it's a complicated set of feelings that don't really add up to one neat and clear diagnosis/takeaway. on one hand, I feel empathetic, and sad, and wonder what kind of life he led, and what would lead him to do something like this. on the other hand, I'm pissed that he sold us all out like this. that he killed this many innocent people. that he put us out there in such a horrible way. on another hand (yes, I am some kind of three-handed freak... roll with me here), I wonder if this will help bring important issues to light. if this will teach Asian parents (hell, all parents, but in this case, Asian ones in particular) to talk to their kids, to give them the love and support they need, to push them in a way that's still safe. far more educated people than I have written about the effects of raising children in a post-Columbine world. pale kids who wear black trench coats were forever villified, and parents lived in fear of raising a kid who might turn out to be a social outcast. what will the effects of this tragedy be? will the stereotype of the over-stressed Asian kid cause others to back away? I mean, geez, way to blow the "model minority" myth out of the water, you know?
I'm going to end this here for fear that this will turn into a preachy post, and who the hell am I to preach intelligently on this kind of topic? I didn't have this kind of upbringing, I don't have kids, I haven't studied psychology. there are people who are far more intelligent than I am who will be writing about this for years to come. in fact, I can only imagine the field day that the media is going to have with this one... race issues, psychology issues, child-rearing issues, gun-control issues, school safety issues, immigration issues, etc etc etc. I can only describe my knee-jerk reaction, which was "damn. did he have to be Korean?"
UPDATED TO ADD A LINK TO AN EXCELLENT WAPO ARTICLE: