Not guilty

I read the “dossier” on the Virginia Tech shooting in my local paper yesterday. There was a whole section on backlash and fears of it or not, mostly from articles reprinted from the American press. It’s funny, (not) but when there was a similar shooting at a college in Montreal last September, no-one mentioned backlash.

The perp there was of South Asian origin, and there was some discussion of how racism and being caught between two cultures might have been difficult for him and set him on the rocky road to gunning down a bunch of people and then himself. However, when backlash was briefly described a week later, it was not in a racial context, but in the form of testimonies from young people in the goth movement, who reported that people looked at them even more warily now (the guy had posted several graphic videos about being some kind of grim reaper on goth-community sites), and some even said they’d been the object of hateful outbursts in the street.

So yesterday morning I thought, “what does that say about American society to even have to ask the question about backlash at all?”

I must admit, even though I am not American and not living in the US, I felt sad when I discovered the race of the shooter, which I note was mentioned immediately (much later in the Montreal shooting) and erroneously.

I felt sad because of the “representation dilemma”. When “one of our own” does something reprehensible, we all feel concerned. It is a reality for minorities everywhere.

Perhaps “sad” is not the right word. Feelings of anger and fear, as well as sadness, from Asian people have been mentioned in other blogs (see ricedaddies, reappropriate). I noted anger against Cho seemed prevalent, as if he’d let us all down. Fear that we will be held responsible for his actions abounds.

Perhaps “sad” is the right word – I feel sad that fellow Asians should have to deal with these feelings. And I also feel anger – anger against a society that makes it our problem, and that makes it a “whites against people of colour” problem even though Cho himself was not racially discriminating in whom he shot in cold blood.

I am fortunate that I do not have to feel fear because I do not live in the States, but I am very conscious that my emotions stem from a general feeling of not being safe that is common to many people of colour.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims and to all those who have to deal personally with the aftermath of this tragic event, whether they were actually physically involved or not.

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