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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.

October 5, 2009

Written by C.N.

Asian American Students Acting Like Idiots

Those who are regular readers of this site and blog know that I spend a lot of time defending Asian Americans and criticizing acts of discrimination and violence committed against them. However, in the interest of fairness, I am also happy to point out and bash instances when Asian Americans themselves act like thugs and idiots.

With that in mind, here’s the perfect opportunity — as the Los Angeles Times reports, three UCLA Asian American students were recently arrested for their role in a fight at an Asian American-interest fraternity party:

Three UCLA students and four other people have been arrested in connection with a melee at an off-campus fraternity party that left three students injured last month, university officials said Friday. The fight broke the morning of Sept. 22 at a party hosted by Lambda Phi Epsilon, a fraternity that was on probation at the time after an incident last fall that involved an altercation with members of another fraternity. . . . None of the students is listed as being a member of the fraternity. . . .

One student was stabbed in the abdomen and required surgery. A second student was stabbed in the arm but did not require hospitalization. A third was hit over the head with a bottle. . . . [A] preliminary investigation indicates that all the suspects were “uninvited guests.” He said the party eventually became overcrowded and, after some disruptions, the suspects were asked to leave. . . .

The Asian fraternity has faced problems in the past. In 2005, 19-year-old Kenny Luong died from fatal head injuries during a tackle football game held at a city park in Irvine to initiate pledges into Lambda Phi Epsilon. During the game, pledges were gang-tackled repeatedly, police said. The fraternity was officially disbanded by UC Irvine in 2007.

In 2003, San Jose State Lambdas were involved in a melee that left one member fatally stabbed and others hospitalized. Police said about 60 fraternity brothers faced off against rivals from another Asian fraternity.

Since I did not witness the fight personally, I can only speculate about its circumstances based on articles such as this one from the LA Times. I also do not know to what extent members of the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity were involved in this incident. I also hope that the criminal charges brought against those who were arrested are fair and just, not overreactions on the part of the police and criminal justice system.

Nonetheless and as the article notes, this fraternity has a history of violence and legal problems, a few of which have involved the deaths of other Asian Americans.

Incidents like this that involve Asian Americans acting violently remind me of the movie Better Luck Tomorrow that portrays a group of high-achieving Asian American students turning to a life of crime and violence to relieve the stress and monotony of their “model minority” life.

On a more sociological level, incidents like this also bring up the question that I posed several years ago when I wrote about the brawl between Lambda Phi Epsilon and Pi Alpha Phi in San Jose that led to the stabbing death of a young Asian American male student — why are many Asian American males, particularly those associated with ethnic-interest fraternities, emulating the same kind of destructive machismo and violence that has plagued their community for so long?

To be sure, most members of these fraternities nationwide do not resort to violence and in fact, are good students and good community members. But even the casual reader can see that there is a pattern of problems involved with these two Asian American fraternities. As I speculated before:

Is there someone or something to blame here? The Greek system for making these Asian Americans feel like they have to defend the “honor” of their frat and of their “brothers” at all costs, including gang violence and murder, even if their antagonists are other Asian Americans?

A misplaced feeling that rather than the prejudice and discrimination out there in the larger society are their biggest threats, they scapegoat their most immediate rivals as the ones to blame for their problems?

An unconscious inferiority complex in which young Asian American men think they need to be hyper-violent to show that they’re just as masculine as Whites, Blacks, or Latinos?

Youthful bravado, reinforced by a mob mentality? Simple insanity on the part of each person who took part in this fiasco?

My guess is, all of the above.


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

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian American Students Acting Like Idiots" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2009/10/asian-american-students-acting-like-idiots/> ().

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