Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui (Virginia Tech massacre)

So, I've been browsing information about Cho Seung-Hui, the guy who killed 33 people at Virginia Tech a few days ago.

A black woman blogger ("Jersey Goddess") wrote that she prayed he wouldn't turn out to be an illegal immigrant. Luckily, he wasn't, so illegal immigrants can't be demonised. At first, he was described as "an Asian male" and the flurry of Islamophobic crap that I found was incredible - it was assumed by some that he must have been Muslim, that this was a "jihad." Thank goodness there aren't cultural stereotypes of "violent Koreans" to draw on.

Now, of course, it's stressed that he had a mental illness, as if this explains the violence. Us crazy people, you gotta watch out for us. Although, as a press release from the American National Alliance on Mental Illness stresses, people with mental illnesses are more likely to be the victim of violence, and are less likely to perpetrate it.

It led me to think. Ethnicity seems to be more often mentioned when it's someone from a stigmatised group commiting a crime (particularly black people in the US/UK, and these days Middle-Eastern people or Muslims), which creates/draws on the image of black and brown men as dangerous, innately violent. Whiteness is rarely named. Which is, of course ironic since there are some murderous white men running the world at the moment. Their killing is state-sanctioned so somehow "legitimate".

There is an implicit link between violence and mental illness, as if sensible, people of sound mind wouldn't kill or mistreat people (although survivors of the Holocaust constantly remark upon how ordinary their persecutors were).

I haven't been able to write about this for a few days because one morning I woke up and the ABC report speculated that Cho may have had the same diagnosis that I have been given. The psychiatrist who suggested this worked at Melbourne Uni and was making this "diagnosis" having never met the guy. It brought up some past shit for me. It also reiterated my suspicions that this "diagnosis" has no basis in subjective human experiences, except the "objective experience" of the psychiatrist (ie. the objectifying experience).

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