Thursday, May 29, 2014

Something Missing From The Elliot Rodger Discourse

As always happens after the all too common mass shootings in this country, there has been a national dialogue opened on a variety of issues, from gun control to misogyny.  These conversations, especially those inspired by the #YesAllWomen hashtag have been revealing and important.  However, there has been less discussion of the killer's racism, particularly on his animus against Asians.  (Folks like Chauncey DeVega have been highly notable exceptions.)

This point was brought home to me yesterday at lunch where I was talking to a work colleague who is an immigrant from China.  She had been following the story in the Chinese news, and was particularly alarmed that the killer had targeted Asian students, stabbing his three Chinese-American roommates to death.  To her it was obvious that Rodgers' hatred of Asian-Americans motivated his actions as much as his misogyny, something that ought to be plain as day.  After all, these were his first victims, and half of those who tragically died.

Sadly, they don't fit into the narrative that has been built around Rodger, which sees him solely as a shooter who targeted women.  He certainly did shoot, and he certainly did target women, I don't dispute that, obviously, or that this event ought to prompt us to think deeply and seriously about sexism and gun laws.  It should also, however, be just as important for us to discuss racism's role in all of this, specifically anti-Asian racism, and particularly how internalized racism can have violent consequences, considering that Rodger had an Asian mother.  Perhaps this is because racism against Asians is rarely discussed in this country, or because of our country's typical hesitance to broach the subject of race when the dynamics are more complicated.   (As Chauncey DeVega has written, a lot of folks just seem to be unable to understand how whiteness works or that race is a social construct.)  In any case, it's a topic that ought to be getting more discussion in the current public discourse.

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