Sunday, April 22, 2007

Re the Virginia Tech incident, I will remember these:

South Korea issued an apology because "he is one of us." The Korean Ambassador to the US invited others to join him in a 32-day fast to honor the dead.

[Note to self: Ehem, I don't remember the parents or community of the Columbine shooters asking the nation for an apology, do you? Okay, let's go binary on this for a second: individualistic versus collective identities. The Asian in me understands the Korean apology; I feel it is humble and dignified and resonates with this sense of collective identification. The North American in me shudders at the thought of how this apology, if misunderstood and misinterpreted, can become a weapon to foment racist and cultural backlash. However, I see flashes of hope in my students who are learning to think beyond the binary. Those white students who say: I do think we should learn how to be more caring towards each other. Our individualistic culture creates too much alienation.]
My student K, who is White and Korean, responds to classmates who tell her: We don't care if the killer is Asian or not so you shouldn't either. She says: You don't understand. This is a big deal to my mother who is Korean and so it is a big deal to me.
Many Asian American organizations are issuing statements that they hope will prevent racial profiling and backlash against Asian communities. Scholar bloggers are warning against Orientalizing gazes and essentializing discourses.
In Denver, my sister reports that a usually Saturday-night-busy Asian restaurant was empty. Is this backlash?
A Fil Am student got confused when a professor asked him: So what do you think of the fact that the shooter is Asian? He hasn't been reading the news and didn't know what to answer. But in hindsight, he tells me: But even if I did know that he's Asian, why is this professor asking me? Does she go around campus asking white students the same question?

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