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Yesterday, a Vietnamese immigrant named Jiverly Wong entered the American Civic Association, an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, New York, and murdered thirteen individuals in a citizenship class. For those who are not familiar with the situation, you can read about it here.

As I read the updated news reports, attempting to process the event and understand the motivations, I increasingly become more upset. An immigrant, a daughter of immigrants who struggled to learn English and gain American citizenship, and someone who seeks to work with immigrant communities now as a student and in the future professionally, I am simultaneously connected to and detached from what happened. I say detached because I have the privilege as someone not directly involved to read, express dismay/shock/sympathy, and move on. But personally, I cannot, and feel the responsibility to recognize the implications of this event. What happened involves many factors, among them the issue of mental health in Asian and Asian American communities and immigrant communities at large and ideas that Asian immigrants are “successful” and “models” when they, too, share common struggles with other immigrants. This is why I am frustrated when I see influential Asian American commentators like Phil Yu write things like this on his blog:

So he decided to kill as many people as possible, before shooting himself? That's the act of a coward. Look, I am sympathetic to those who are going through tough times. Maybe you're not happy with the way your life has turned out. It seems like you're alone, and things don't look like they're going to get better.

But there are a lot of people getting through tough times, and they're not strapping on bulletproof vests and shooting up crowds. There's something seriously wrong with this condition -- and no, it's not just an Asian thing, or an immigrant thing. Don't try to turn it into that. People need to deal, and we need to help each other deal.
Indeed, Phil Yu is right when he says it is not just “an Asian thing” and “an immigrant thing.” There is more to it; all situations involve multiplicities. But to move forward, take care of our communities, and seek justice for those murdered, we must take proactive steps beyond blame and anger. The crime was cowardly, yes. Murder is senseless. But to deconstruct his, to see broader implications, requires sensitivity and thoughtfulness. What provoked this man to vent his frustration in such a way? And, further, upon members of his own community? And how may we better understand this situation so that it does not happen again? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but thinking about the event as more than an “act of a coward” will eventually be more fruitful.


  1. David said...

    on point  


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