How To Make Sense of Senseless Acts of Violence Committed by Asian and Asian American Men

By Julianne Hing Jan 23, 2009

As a regular reader of the blog Angry Asian Man, I’m well familiar with what’s become a seemingly daily feature there, affectionately titled "Asians Behaving Badly." Amongst the political news and television reviews, Angry Asian Man also features quick mentions of Asians and Asian Americans who’ve made headlines for their criminal transgressions. Extortion, domestic abuse, tax evasion, murder! We Asians really are capable of doing it all. But my heart sank when I found out the killer in Wednesday night’s stabbing at Virginia Tech had an Asian surname. My thought process went something like this: 1)tA Chinese Virginia Tech grad student decapitated his friend? 2)tAn Asian American student, Cho Seung-hui, was responsible for the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech where 32 people were killed. 3)tThis summer, it was an Asian guy, Li Weiguang, who stabbed and later decapitated a fellow passenger on the Greyhound bus they were riding in Canada. And then I said aloud, to no one in particular: "What is up with Asian and Asian American men?" Their Asianness was foremost in my mind. It was how I linked the three incidents together. I knew my knee-jerk racial profiling was the wrong, wrong, wrong path to start heading down, but I wanted answers. So I started asking more questions. 4)tHow do we make sense of these incidents? 5)tWhat is it about this particular brand of horrific violence? 6)tDid he use the same kind of knife my mama uses to hack through pig’s feet? I turned immediately to my boyfriend and started hurling these questions at him. He’s my default sounding board and an Asian American man, an added bonus. I knew I’d get some special insight that I, as an Asian American woman, didn’t possess. He listened very patiently while I went on and on about “these men” before saying, “Maybe you can find other words for this. It’s kind of hurtful for you to talk about this in terms of “Asian and Asian American men,” like we’re all the same.” I had no time for this and steamrolled him. “True. BUT my line of questioning is what most of the rest of society is asking themselves.” There was a moment’s pause before he said, “Most of society, except Asian and Asian American males.” To which I, long after the day’s news has already moved on, now want to tell him: You were totally on point. I’m sorry babe.