Asians have been prominent in the media lately. However, it is not positive news.
Jiverly Voong, a Chinese–Vietnamese, was named as the mass murderer in the Binghamton shooting that took place on April 3. He opened fire in the American Civic Association, killing 13 people before taking his own life.
Alberto Fujimori, who is ethnically Japanese, was president of Peru between 1990 and 2000. On Tuesday, April 7, Fujimori was convicted by Peruvian authorities on human rights charges — including authorizing murder and kidnapping. He will serve a 25-year sentence for his role in the killings and kidnappings by the Grupo Colina, a paramilitary anticommunist death squad, during his government’s battle against leftist guerrillas in the 1990s.
Fujimori is the first elected president in Latin America to be found guilty of human rights abuses by a court sitting in his own country. When Fujimori took office, Northwest Asian Weekly proudly ran the news on it. We hoped that Fujimori would come to be a model for many of us.
Nearly 20 years later, the outcome is drastically different from what we had hoped. For many Asian Americans, the instinctive response is to distance oneself from the criminal, such as the way many Vietnamese Americans have been pushing the distinction that Voong was ethnically Chinese, not Vietnamese. It may be a natural gut reaction to these crimes, but we should not forget that in making the distinction, Vietnamese Americans are also putting blame on the Chinese. The implication is: the shooter wasn’t Vietnamese. Our people would never do this. He was actually Chinese.
This is not the right perspective to adopt. These occurrences are tragic enough, let us not exacerbate them by turning on one another. We can’t conveniently band together as one unified Asian American identity when Gary Locke is elected governor and then conveniently disintegrated when a tragedy occurs. No progress for our race is made in this way.
Another thing for us to be conscious of is for us to not apologize on behalf of our ethnicity or race as some of us have done in the past. What is the point in apologizing when we are not related to the criminal, when the only commonality between us and him is a shared race? All that does is align negative characteristics — violence, hatefulness — with being Asian.
With Fujimori, rather than concentrating on how he failed to be a positive representation of being a minority Asian in power, rather than putting blame on his ethnicity, we should instead look to the people of Peru, and think of what a milestone his conviction is. Fujimori’s conviction says a lot about the potential for the kind of justice that Latin American societies are capable of and deserve. It says a lot to power-mad leaders who think they never have to be held accountable for their misdeeds. (end)