I am sure you have heard the terrible news by now. There was a shooting Friday at the immigration center in Binghamton, NY. At first, the information came trickling out in dribbles and drabs. I heard a little here and there, but nothing substantial. Then, there were rumblings that the shooter was Vietnamese. The first thing I thought was:
Please, please, please don’t let him be Asian. PLEASE!
I followed the story, and when I found out that he was Asian, I was not a happy camper. Now, you might be asking yourself, what difference does that make? How can you be so selfish as to think of that when thirteen people lay dead because of this man? Believe me, I’m not proud of this reaction, but I remember what happened when the VA Tech shooter turned out to be Korean American. Much closer to home, I remember what happened when the Hmong hunter got into a fight with some white hunters, in Iowa, I think (one of the bordering states) and killed six of them. I think it was six. I am not looking it up because it still hurts.
My heart clutched each of those times, too. See, when you are a member of the minority, you know that every time one member of your group acts up, you all get targeted. It doesn’t matter that the shooter at VA Tech was Korean American or the hunter was Hmong, just as it doesn’t matter that Jiverly Wong is Vietnamese (ethnically Chinese). In the eyes of the majority, they are the same–yellow-skin, alien, and other. The racism that emerged after each of these situations was not surprising, but it still made me wary.
Just as an aside, the vast majority of spree shooters in America are white males. Most of them are white supremacists and rabid gun-advocates as well. Why is this never mentioned? Remember Timothy McVeigh? Before it was discovered that he was a white guy, people were grumbling about how it must be the Arabs and we should send them all back to where they came from. Once it was discovered it was a white guy who was responsible for the Oklahoma bombing, no one said that all white men should be rounded up and shipped out of the country.
This is the burden of being a minority. We don’t get the luxury of being individuals in the eyes of the majority. Just as it was assumed that I must be so proud of Amy Tan when she hit it big (I wasn’t), it is so assumed that I should be ashamed of Jiverly Wong for his heinous deed. I am, but I shouldn’t be, damn it.
Margaret Cho talked about this in her last stand up because the VA Tech shooter had the same last name as does she. She didn’t want to be associated with him in any way. It is very sad, but I was praying that if the NY shooter was Asian, let him not be Taiwanese or Chinese.
This is a more subtle form of what happened during World War II. Chinese people would wear “I’m Chinese” buttons so they wouldn’t be confused for Japanese. I don’t like that kind of branding oneself, but I have to say I probably would have worn a “I’m Tawianese” button if I had been alive back then. I wouldn’t want anyone to dump me in a concentration camp first and ask questions later, especially since I was mistaken for Japanese when I was in Japan.
Once I found out that the Binghamton shooter was Asian, I hunkered down. I waited for the inevitable racism to come pouring out of the woodworks. Strangely, I haven’t seen much of it yet. It’s early days, but the response has been much more muted than it had been for the VA Tech shooting. Sadly, I think I realize why. Wong shot up the immigration center where other immigrants were taking classes or receiving help. He didn’t execute his killing spree on a campus or a church. In other words, the victims aren’t as real or as important to the mainstream as were the victioms of the VA Tech shooting. With the VA Tech shooting, most people were thinking, “That could have been me or my kids.” With this shooting, well, most Americans born here have little to no reason to go to an immigration center.
In the end, it shouldn’t matter. Thirteen people are dead because of this bitter man. The focus should be on the victims and their families and not the color of the shooter’s skin. That shouldn’t matter. I really wish it didn’t.