Racializing a tragedy

Commentators put misplaced importance on race in Virginia Tech shootings.

More than a week has passed since the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, but the grief has not subsided. As a society, we are left grappling with one simple question: Why? In our attempts to come to terms with and to understand what unfolded, we must be careful not to concentrate on the race of the shooter as an explanation for his horrific actions.

The attention on the South Korean nationality of the shooter by certain media outlets is unfortunate. Doing stories on how the Korean community is reacting to the tragedy is wrongfully putting importance on the race of the shooter. These kinds of story angles imply that the South Korean population at large should feel some level of culpability for the actions of one man. The assigning of misplaced guilt of this magnitude will only serve to fuel feelings of racism and hatred throughout the country, and will do nothing to bring justice to the Virginia Tech victims.

The nationality of the shooter should have no bearing on the crime. By focusing our attention on the nationality of the shooter, we are unconsciously attributing the atrocity committed by one person to a whole group of people. This is unjust and unfair.

This “race labeling” leads us to the inescapable truth that there exists a double standard concerning crime and accountability within different groups of people. When a white individual is responsible for an awful and tragic action, his “whiteness” is not considered as a factor in the crime. The question of “Do you think he did it because he is white?” never surfaces. The Columbine school shootings didn’t have us explaining the actions of the shooter through the framework of race. Race had no role in the shooting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other crimes.

What happened last week was a tragedy that evoked a great sense of grief across the country. We were all deeply saddened and affected by the loss of innocents. Any attempt to racialize the tragedy would only succeed in increasing the inhumanity that caused this unspeakable tragedy in the first place.