Day 65: Virginia Tech Shooting–Dangerous Conversation About Race/Nationality

Dear all,

as we are following the events at Virginia Tech unfold, let me address one issue that already seems to move into the center of the debate: the fact that the shooter was a young Asian male. CNN, MSNBC, FOX etc. are already talking about the fact that most major shootings in the last 20 years were committed by international students, or children of immigrants. Hence my appeal: let’s address this as what it is, namely in part a problem of alienated individuals (doubtlessly possessing a horrific potential for violence in addition to their social problems that can push them to levels unimaginable to “normal,” (racially/ethnically) segregated/alienated individuals) that should tell us something about the way we are treating foreigners and immigrants in our society. If it turns out that race, or ethnicity has played into this, it should make us question our treatment of foreigners and guest students. We should question if we are doing everything we can to avoid the alienation of foreigners, people of other races etc, a negative social situation that can work together with mental problems to create an explosive and tragic mix. In other words, we should not let this shooting throw us into another media-induced frenzy of xenophobia, a reaction that would only perpetuate the situation that in part may have factored into today’s sad, sad event.




  1. Thank you for this. It most definitely should be addressed that, if race or ethnicity is signaled as a “possible factor” (even if only in right-wing media), there needs to be a counterdiscourse in which we question why. Instead of placing blame, we definitely should—as you suggest—read this as a divisional “defiance” on a subcultural level. While I have heard, in some media accounts, this incident compared to Columbine, the similar ways or motives for the shootings weren’t looked at with the attention they deserved. If anything, what happened in Virginia might very well point to “normative” sociocultural antagonisms with regard to race, ethnicity, and “foreignness,” but it should also point to the multifarious ways in which society and culture create subcultures. This is the parallel I myself see, but am not seeing discussed, between Virginia Teach and Columbine. “Normative” sociocultural efforts to maintain the division between race and class and sexuality, etc, should immediately flag the question of these oppressive practices (as you say here), especially when the boundary lines are crossed back over—to be sloppy in phrasing it—and the oppressor becomes oppressed, mostly due to the act of oppressing in the first place. It’s sad that this is not discussed; it’s utterly sad how dire the need is for scapegoats in today’s (religious, repressive) regime.

  2. Yep. When hearing about this, I felt like I had felt on 9/11. My first thought “No! Why did this have to happen while George ‘Walking Lobotomy’ Bush is in the White House!”

  3. That was too depressing, generalizing, and sombre for me to read on after two paragraphs. The US needs to rethink its gun control policies instead of saying this is “just like those people!” or other such inanities. Of course, as you say, it will never change those policies.

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