An Asian American college student's perspective about the Virginia Tech massacre
|On Monday, April 16, 2007, the worst school shooting event in the history of the United States unfurled at Virginia Tech. More than 32 students and teachers died at the hands of a lone gunman in a two hour period, after which the killer committed suicide. The gunner was identified as a 23 year old senior named Cho Seung-Hui, a Korean-American. He was considered a loner, someone who had few friends, and wrote violent, gory, literature.|
I'm sure you already know these facts. The media has been beating it into us over and over again, showing us pictures of the victims, the killer, etc,.
To be honest, I really didn't realize the effect this had upon the college community and the impact on the Asian American community. My dad asked me what I had thought about what had happened. I told him that it was just one of those things that happened, and all anyone could do was hope it didn't happen again. That all changed yesterday, on April 18.
First of all, let me explain a little bit about myself. I'm 19 years old, and a college student at Whittier College. I don't have very many friends, I write violent, grotesque stories, I have a passion for history, especially the wars, and I love playing violent video games. Oh, and one more thing, I'm an Asian American male. Already, many of the other students started to cast weary gazes upon me; as if expecting me to pull out an AK47 and start mowing them down. I didn't think of it much then, and thought the best thing I could do in such a situation was act like everything was normal.
Don't forget this is only one day after the Virginia Tech massacre, and didn't take into account the immediate paranoia and hysteria created throughout college campuses after the event. There had been a message on the campus email, instructing students to alert campus safety if they spotted anything abnormal right away. Anyhow, I did something that day which can only be considered as a severe lapse in judgement. While I was at the Computer Lab between classes, I went into a website detailing the types of weapons the Allies and the Axis powers used during WWII. I told you before, I have an interest in history, and the fact I was viewing a gun website had nothing to do with the Virginia Tech massacre. I had done so on numerous occasions before, and there had been no incidents about it.
That was then, this was now. What passing students saw was, a skinny, quiet, Asian kid, sitting by himself, two chairs away from the nearest person... and looking at a gun website...
In the words of Homer Simpson, all I could say in my mind was... DOPE!!!
...I never found out who informed the Campus Safety, (maybe it's just as well that I don't ever find out who did) but the following day I was taken in by the security guards during my writing class. Naturally, whenever the campus safety people barge into the classroom, you get really nervous. Confused, I put my hands over my head, to show them I wasn't planning on causing any trouble. The teachers and students are giving you those weary looks, one student even angled away from me, as if I had rabies or something. The guards said I wasn't in trouble though, and all they wanted to do was 'speak with me' and address some concerns. The guard who escorted me to the Campus Safety station, Sgt Nelson, showed me photographs of me researching guns on the web. Now, don't get me wrong, Sgt. Nelson was a nice guy, and did all he could to keep me relaxed. But how can you not be nervous in this situation?
I told him what I am telling you now... I have an interest in history and I was researching what weapons that were used during WWII. Still, as a precautionary measure, he had me searched head to toe, along with my bag. I was sure that I had not brought any sort of potential weapon in my bag, never mind a gun, yet there was this sense that they would pull one out anyhow. In my pockets, I had my wallet, car keys, cell phone. That's it. I let out a sigh of relief.
I asked them whether they had questioned any of the other students, and the answer was no, I was the first. I wonder, had I been white, latino or black, would whoever had reported me in have been so quick to do so?
The campus safety people also pulled out my file and looked over it. In 7th grade, I'd been picked on by my classmates. Several of the teachers reports during middle school and high school had described me as 'an intelligent young man', but not very sociable. They searched my medical record. At the age of 3 I had been diagnosed with Autism, and during High School, with ADD. While at college, I had showed no signs of any wrong doing. I went to class every day, parked in the right spot, and never got in trouble. My profile was ringing more and more alarm bells.
Though I was clean, the campus safety still felt a need to interrogate me, again as a precautionary measure. Did you ever have throughts about hurting yourself or other people? Are there any students or teachers you want revenge upon? Do you take any medications for psychological effects? (In that case, I had to admit yes, as I take medicine for ADD) Do you see a psychologist? (The answer to that question was yes too) Many times, I was tempted to lie and say things that would not raise more alarm bells. I wanted to tell them that I had stumbled upon that gun site by accident, that I didn't enjoy shooting up hordes of Nazis, aliens and terrorists on the computer screen. Telling the truth, through, only brought more and more questions.
They also asked me what type of genre I liked to write about. I told them science fiction and fantasy mostly, and that they did often contain violence. They merely nodded. After I had asked that question, they dismissed me, and I was free to return to class.
When I returned, the teacher welcomed me back in a friendly enough fashion, but the students gave me those accusing, suspicious gazes again. They probably didn't know exactly what had gone on, but they had a good idea of what had happened. They had marked me as a potential killer. I had done nothing wrong though, besides that lapse of judgement, and somehow I resented the fact that they would think that of me.
I started to feel bad, that somehow I was partly responsible for the actions caused by Cho Seung-Hui that day. I felt I needed to apologize, not simply to assure the students, but for the Asian race and all Asian American college students as a whole. I know it sounds horrible, but in a way, you start to identify more with the killer, and feel sorry for him more than those 32 innocent victims. I know its horrible but its true. I also started to ask myself, could I be capable of acting out on my fellow students in that fashion, to shoot down all my fellow students in my writing class? Would I have the nerve to do such a thing, to fire a gun at another student or teacher with the intent to kill? No, I told myself, I would never do such a thing. Besides, the killer was a Korean-American, not a Chinese American, though most whites really don't see any difference anyhow. Under no circumtance. Absolutely not. Never.
Still..... I couldn't help but imagine myself, clad in a trench coat with dual uzis in my hand, barging into the cafeteria and mowing people down. There is a sort of demonic appeal to such a thing, and anyone who has played Grand Theft Auto understands this feeling. When I got home to play my 1st-person shooter games online (Call of Duty), I changed my screen name from Bmao to 'Cho Seung-Hui', just for that day. (If you're curious, I scored better than usual that night) There's a sense of power you have, to receive weary comments from the other users. If people are worried that you could do such a thing as Cho Seung-Hui did, it means they fear you, yet at the same time, you want to assure people that you don't mean any harm. In essense, you become scared of what you are, and more scared about what other people perceive you as.
I started to think, why me? A conspiracy began to chrun in my mind, that this accusation was somehow racially motivated.
The kids at Columbine, though white, were said to be deranged kids. The media keeps trumpeting how Cho Seung-Hui was Asian, a member of the so-called model minority. While visiting blogs on Youtube and Facebook, many of the members insisted that they'd better watch out for Asian kids, because when they're quiet, they are definitely plotting something. When they explode, they'll explode just like Cho Seung-Hui did at Virginia Tech. Asians are generally crazy, they say, look at the Japs in WWII, the Communist Chinese and the Vietcong. I'll give you this, Asians are generally more introverted. As for other races, like the Muslims, Whites, Latinos, Blacks, among others, they announce themselves more openly. Asians? Who can say? Who can guess what they're thinking, what they're planning?
These stereotypes always come up, not only about Asians but of all other races in the immediate aftermath of some big crisis. It's illogical, but its a normal human reaction that people would start to become weary of Asian-American college-aged males immediately after the Virginia Tech tragedy for a while.
I will tell you this however, I do know never to go on a gun website while at school ever again. The tragedy of Virginia Tech should never be repeated, and I do have to change myself in such a way that my fellow students, teachers, and members on writing.com do not form negative assumtions about me anymore. Regardless of what has happened in Virginia, there are still some things I cannot change about myself. I will likely be introverted throughout my life. I still like history and like studying the wars fought throughout that time. I still like playing violent video games. I will still be Asian.
But regardless of what you think of me, I'm not a killer.