(Students held a vigil at Virginia Tech campus Monday night, April 16, 2007, in Blacksburg, Va. after gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history Monday/AP Photo/The Roanoke Times) tnews of the Virgina Tech shooting yesterday spread faster than it took Cho Seung-Hui to kill his 33 victims, including himself. In addition to the death toll, the question of the shooter’s color kept coming up. In the back of my mind, I prayed the killer was not Black. And this morning, a co-worker of mine relayed a similar fear. "Please tell me he’s not Asian," she said. "He’s actually an Asian man," I responded. "What kind of Asian?" my colleague, who is South Asian, asked. "I think East Asian," I said. The conversation ended there. The mass murderer was South Korean–not that his race is any justification or indication of his crime. And thankfully, major media outlets have withheld any racial analysis of this tragedy, except frequent mention of Cho’s "resident alien" status. But a timeline of shooting rampages featured in a New York newspaper today showed that an explicit racial dynamic exists when it comes to these type of crimes. The timeline starts August 1, 1966 when a shooter fired from an observation deck, killing 16 and wounding many others, and moves to the latest before Virginia Tech, to 2006 when a man killed himself and his two sons during a visit to Shepard University in West Virginia. Of the nine incidents on the timeline, the race of the shooter is never indicated except in the Nov. 1, 1991, incident, when a "Graduate student from China" shot and killed five University of Iowa employees and himself. Why is it that when mass-shootings like this one occur, many of us cross our pinkies and toes and hope that the perpetrator doesn’t belong to our ethnic group? What has history taught us about crimes that fall along the color line? Andrew Lam may have some answers. In his piece Let it be some other ‘Asian’ he explains:
To be a minority in America, even in the 21st century, is to be always on trial. An evil act by one indicts the entire community. Whoever doubts this need only look at the spike in hate crimes against Muslims and South Asian communities after 9/11.