I find myself emotionally overwhelmed by the news of recent events at Virginia Tech. I am not sure why I am so affected by this. Perhaps it is that I work on college campuses and know intimately how much brokenness lies just under the surface of people who are among the most privileged in the world and who churches routinely ignore except to consider what benefit they might derive from their attendance at services or their usefulness in tending to the younger children in the congregation.
What can I say to something that happened just across the border in a neighboring state, on a campus not terribly dissimilar to that on which I labored for so many years endeavouring to be salt and light and trying to pastor people like the kid who was the gunman.
How is it that I am so deeply affected when he is not from “my community” except that I have come to feel it is my community in some way. Having immersed myself in the Korean American context for nearly three years, I resent the fact that so much is made of his “resident alien” status as if that somehow explains it all. I cringe inwardly in much the same way I do when a Black person commits a crime and I know that all Black people somehow bear the stigma because we share the color. I don’t like the subtext, the subversive narrative that is developing which attempts to explain the inexplicable by implying that this is somehow connected to his “Asianness” and by implication the somehow intrinsic “foreignness” of any Asian person makes them automatically suspect. I wish they wouldn’t keep bringing up his ethnicity since it seems incidental. Others talk about this as well, better than I have.
I feel sick in my stomach for the parents who, if they are like most Koreans, probably go to church even if they aren’t Christians and undoubtedly feel intense pain at the loss of their son coupled with overwhelming shame that their son would do this. I cannot imagine what it must be like.
I am angry and ashamed of my desire, when I hear things like this, for it not to be a minority. I am angry that when a White kid does these horrible things, the story is always of his or her typical normal upbringing and even thought peopel wonder why, they never wonder if it has anything to do with their race.
I think of my students, many of whom are 2nd or 1.5 generation Korean Americans, and I think of the ones who suffer from depression, who just can’t seem to get it together academically, who struggle to be at home at the university and so seek solace with other Korean Americans. I think of how they must feel, or even if they feel anything at all or even allow themselves to. I can’t imagine what I would say in that situation. DJChuang has much more to say on this.
Perhaps I have come to own this people as my people, so that I am hurt with them though I cannot even fully enter into that hurt.