One might say that it's been an annus horribilis for the Asian American man. From the racist rantings of Kenneth Eng, to the conviction of Hmong American Chai Vang in the shooting of six fellow hunters, to last month's horrific murder spree at Virginia Tech, events seem to have conspired to swing perceptions of Asian males to the point where any sign of aberration is being transformed into evidence that we represent a simmering danger, a repressed wellspring of vitriol and violence waiting only for the right trigger to burst forth.
Actual aberration, or imaginary: One of the truly strange signatures of the media analysis around the Virginia Tech tragedy is how blurred the line became between reality and creativity. In the wake of the murders, pundits provided line-by-line critiques of a handful of plays that killer Seung-Hui Cho wrote, trying to find within them harbingers of the horror he would unleash. They compared movie stills to poses Cho struck in his video testament, hoping to identify cinematic inspiration for his violence, and reported breathlessly on Cho's love of computer games, even suggesting that he used them for "training" purposes.
The art-as-evidence phenomenon quickly extended beyond Cho: In Cary, Ill., on April 23, high school student Allen Lee was arrested for "disorderly conduct" and removed from school after submitting an essay that his teacher said contained disturbingly violent content -- despite telling students that the assignment was to write a creative work depicting strong emotions, on which there would be "no judgment and no censorship."
Around the same time, in Fort Bend, Texas, another Chinese American student was arrested and expelled from Clements High School after parents of classmates informed authorities that he'd created gaming maps based on the school for the tactical combat game Counterstrike. A search of his bedroom revealed five decorative swords and a hammer, which was enough for the police to declare him a "level 3 terrorist threat."
The hammer may have been what sent the police over the edge. After all, such a tool featured prominently in one of the most widely seen images from Cho's video "manifesto," a self-portrait in which he's grimacing at the camera and holding a standard claw hammer over one shoulder.
But the height of absurdity was reached with the controversy around the April 22 episode of HBO's mafia epic, "The Sopranos," featuring Ken Leung as Carter Chong, a mentally unbalanced Asian American youth who erupts in a spasm of violence. Comparing it to the Virginia Tech massacre, pundits called it an "eerie," "astoundingly awful coincidence." Media blurbalists wrinkled their brows and tsked at the "torn from the headlines" parallels.
Hip-Hop Generation Protests Sarkozy Election in Fr...
To Play In The Town You Gotta Have Heart
Wisdom From Dr. Leon Litwack
May Day On The Frontline (2007 Mix)
Mark Anthony Neal :: "What's the Real Reason for t...
We Got This
Going Home To New Orleans? :: Housing and Public P...
Quote of the Millennium
Me on Chuck Brown's Great New Album