Virginia Tech massacre of 32: immigrant status emphasized

Posted on April 18, 2007. Filed under: immigration, Team America |

Decided to come out of hiding to comment a bit on the Virginia Tech shooting.

The news headlines are placing emphasis on the fact that Cho Seung-Hui, the imbecile who gunned down a classroom full of Virginia Tech students, is a South Korean immigrant.

You have headlines like ‘Campus gunman lived in U.S. 14 years.’

You have article content such as the following:

The gunman who carried out the worst shooting rampage in modern U.S. history was identified as Cho Seung-Hui, 23, an English literature student. He had lived legally in the United States with his parents for 14 years, a U.S. immigration official said. – from Asians fear backlash after Virginia Tech shooting (Reuters)

The anti-immigrant and anti-immigration extremists are going to have a field day with this.

Shouldn’t emphasis be placed, instead, on America’s gun culture??

Cho’s ethnic background will undoubtedly trigger questions about what set off this Asian American male. But how much, if anything, does his ethnicity really have to do with what happened?

Investigators said Cho was a Korean national with a green card and used the Asian style of putting his last name first, which the news media generally followed. But Cho had spent nearly twice as much time in the United States as in Asia.

Cho Seung-Hui was a South Korean, a resident alien, and an English major. Some will, no doubt, exploit these facts to saddle up their anti-immigration hobbyhorse — just as media bottom-feeders such as Bill O’Reilly seized on the Virginia Beach collision last month in which an illegal immigrant was charged with aggravated manslaughter in the deaths of two teenagers.

But single instances are instructive only about single instances, nothing more. No one knows what demons tormented Cho’s sick and malignant soul. Charles Whitman, who shot to death 16 people from the University of Texas clock tower, was not an immigrant, legal or otherwise. Neither was Timothy McVeigh — or Charles Manson or Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris or Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer or . . . .All of those mass killers were white males — and yet it would be just as foolish to extrapolate from that fact a need for a crackdown on white males as it is to use the tragedy at Tech as an excuse for immigrant-bashing.

The media and the general public need to know that it is the shooter’s mental state, not his ethnicity, that is important.

MEDIA ADVISORY from the Asian American Journalists Association:


SAN FRANCISCO (April 17, 2007) — Now that the identity of the suspected shooter at Virginia Tech is known, AAJA cautions the use of his heritage or immigrant status in news coverage.

We understand the need to research the background of Seung-Hui Cho (first name is pronounced “sung hee”) and to provide details about him as a nation struggles to make sense of the horrific incident.

But we are disturbed by some media outlets’ prominent mention that the suspect is an immigrant from South Korea when such a revelation provides no insight or relevance to the story. The fact he is not a U.S. citizen and was here on the basis of a green card, while interesting, should not be a primary focus in the profiling of him. To highlight that suggests his immigration status played a role in the shootings; there’s been no such evidence.

We remind the media that the use of racial and other identifiers must be accompanied with context and relevance. Without it, we open the door to subjecting an entire people to unfair treatment or portrayal based on their skin color or national heritage.

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