Thursday, April 19, 2007

asian backlash?

In Wednesday's Mercury News, L.A. Chung expressed concern that the Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung Hui, will cause a backlash against Asians.

This is merely reactive fear that Cho's ethnicity will damage the popular perception that Asians are "model" immigrants: hard working, valuing education, and so shit-scared of everything they are unassertive and obedient.

I'm in two minds about this, actually. Part of me says people are intelligent enough to recognize that a random Asian has no responsibility for the actions of an insane Asian student 2000 miles away. Another part of me sadly realizes some people really are that dumb.

The terrible thing is, when it comes to African Americans, Chung is totally right. Blacks do feel dread when a newsmaking crime is committed by a black. Historically they are disproportionately poor and disproportionately involved in crime, and part of their more recent cultural developments glorifies criminal behavior. Some whites, even men, even today, will cross the street to avoid walking by a black male because of prejudiced assumptions. In our present condition of war, Muslim Americans feel the same dread about violent actions by Muslims.

But Americans generally don't perceive Asians as criminal or violent, and I think it's stupid to think that Cho will create that assumption. He's way too late, if you set your sights outside America. For decades we've had the Japanese Mafia, the Vietnamese disregard for human life during the war with the US, the Chinese's disregard for copyright laws and their human traffic, the North Korean dictatorship's sales of illegal drugs, etc. It's just that Asian crime and violence doesn't surface often enough in America for it to be noticed.

Cho isn't going to be the problem; anyone can tell he was insane. I truly wish so-called journalists would have some sense of proportion, and not try to hype fear about a problem that is unlikely to manifest itself in significant ways.

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