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All posts copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le.
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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

April 16, 2008

Written by C.N.

Legacy of Virginia Tech Tragedy and Effects on Asian Americans

As you may have heard, today marks the one-year anniversary of Seung-Hui Cho’s shooting rampage that left 32 students and professors dead at Virginia Tech. Many news organizations and bloggers will offer their own take on what this commemoration means to them, so I only offer my own set of reflections and observations on what this event has meant for the Asian American community.

Firstly, like many Asian Americans, I feared that there would be a significant, sustained, and systematic backlash against Asian Americans in the wake of Cho’s actions. There were some initial reactionary and provocatively racist postings on sites like Facebook, etc., and as I wrote about earlier, at least one instance in which teachers and school administrators seemed to overreact to some disturbing writings from an Asian American student.

But beyond those few examples, there has not been a systematic backlash against Asian Americans.

Asian Americans were not widely and publicly denounced as deranged and murderous psychopaths, nor were we summarily targeted by any increase in hate crimes immediately after the shootings. I apologize if I come across as condescending when I say this, but I want to thank Americans for understanding that these were the actions of a single sick individual, and did not reflect any widespread epidemic of potential murderers among the Asian American community.

At the same time, I am also thankful that Cho’s actions did shine a spotlight on a consistently overlooked and taboo issue — mental health among Asian Americans. Specifically, Asian Americans were forced to confront in graphic detail what can happen when we pretend that Asian Americans do not suffer from mental illness or when Asian Americans ignore or bottle up the emotional issues they have out of fear that it will embarrass themselves, their family, or their community.

In other words, I think Asian Americans learned the valuable lesson that silence can kill. We learned that for everyone’s sake, it is better to confront mental illness directly, before it gets out of hand and becomes too late. I am not suggesting that mental illness has been solved or eradicated among Asian Americans, but that as a community, we seem to be much more open to recognizing and discussing it, and intervening before it leads to tragedy.

Perhaps that is one of the “silver linings” from this tragedy — that it has led our community to take a look within ourselves and see what we can do to prevent anything like that from ever happening again.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Legacy of Virginia Tech Tragedy and Effects on Asian Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2008/04/legacy-of-virginia-tech-tragedy-effects-on-asian-americans/> ().

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