Thanks for the intro, ABW. I should preface my first entry by saying that I’m fairly mild-mannered, so when ABW asked me to be her guest blogger I wondered whether I could do a good job of it given that I’m rarely an Angry black woman — more of a Cynical and Frequently Annoyed black woman instead. ABW assured me that I wouldn’t have much trouble noticing things to get angry about, and sadly it seems that she was right.
So: the Virginia Tech horror. My heart goes out to the people directly affected by it, which includes several friends in the speculative fiction community. However, I’m already sick of the media feeding-frenzy. Not that the frenzy surprises me; I expected them to latch onto anything that could sufficiently detract attention from Alberto Gonzales. But in this case the frenzy has a particular tenor that’s pissing me off. (See? Anger.)
It started when I turned on the TV yesterday morning. Fox: “…the killer appears to have been an Asian man, a Korean…”
I hate Fox. So I flipped to a local channel, which I think was an ABC affiliate, and heard virtually the same phrase, verbatim.
And this morning, on NBC: “…new information today about the Asian killer in the Virginia Tech massacre…” I’m adding italics because that’s how the news guy said it, with a noticeable vocal emphasis. Asian killer. Pay attention.
So would someone please tell me why every description I hear of the shooter takes great pains to point out that he was Asian?
Racism, of course, is part of the answer — the usual tendency of Americans to a) assume “default white” unless otherwise noted, b) stereotype Asians as passive and quiet and strange, and/or c) overemphasize race whenever a sensationalist crime is committed by a non-white. (After all, I don’t ever remember the Columbine shooters described in the news as “white native-born Americans”, and the Amish school shooter wasn’t called a “heterosexual European-American male”.)
But this particular “crazy colored people” media frenzy goes beyond the merely racist, edging into political agendas far and wide. I expected the gun control debate that ABW has already touched on. What’s extra-crispy fun here is the way this will probably be played by the anti-immigrant movement. (And no, I don’t mean anti-illegal immigrant movement. That’s just the fresh semi-rational face of a much bigger, older, uglier phenomenon.)
The thing is, the VA-Tech shooter was a legal permanent resident who’s lived most of his life in this country. He was an equal-opportunity killer: all genders, all races, all nationalities, all ages. A substantial number of his victims were immigrants themselves. So his Korean background is, frankly, irrelevant — or at least, no more relevant than the Columbine and Amish shooters’ white American backgrounds. But given the stridency with which his Koreanness is being noted, how much do you want to bet there will now be fresh calls to cut back on the number of visas offered to foreign students and workers? Or the number of green cards given out to prospective citizens? How long before someone demands better “screening” (read: screening-out) of the people who apply for green cards? How long before some conservative pundit or “newspaper” links this massacre, logically or not, to illegal immigration?
Of course, this is apart from the usual stuff that happens whenever an ethnicity gets vilified by the media. Shouldn’t be long before some Imus-type somewhere makes a joke with Kim Jong Il, the VA-Tech guy, and Korean massage parlors in the same sentence.
So welcome, Koreans. (Wait, I forgot — most Americans will toss the Chinese, Thai, etc. in with you too. Welcome <em>Asians</em>.) Us black Americans and the Arabs have saved a seat for you in the “culturally and genetically predisposed to be fucked-up” corner that the media tries so hard to keep us in. Have some coffee. Read a book. You’re going to be here awhile.