Tag Archives: Mass Shooting

UCLA Shooting Suspect Identified: Thoughts On Race, Violence, and Graduate Studies

June 2, 2016
Mainak Sarkar, in an undated photo. (Photo credit: UCLA)
Mainak Sarkar, in an undated photo. (Photo credit: UCLA)

Like many, when I heard that the UCLA campus was on lock-down yesterday due to an on-campus shooting, I braced myself for the worst. Many have scoffed that the spectacle of the mass shooting has become commonplace in today’s America.

Even so, I felt a growing despair as tweets began rolling in from students sheltering in place at UCLA yesterday. There is no story of mass violence that ends well: each is a gruesome spectacle of horror and tragedy, inevitably committed by a person who made the unforgivable decision to weigh their own private angst over the lives of the innocent.

But, yesterday’s events at UCLA gave me pause for extra concern. UCLA is one of the more racially diverse campuses in the United States with over one-third of its undergraduates self-identifying as Asian American or Pacific Islander. It is home to the nation’s largest Asian American Studies departments. I felt certain: a shooting at UCLA was almost certain to reverberate through the AAPI community in unpredictable ways.

I was saddened to learn this morning that — despite early reports that the shooter was a White male — Los Angeles police confirmed the identity of the shooter as former UCLA Mechanical Engineering graduate student Mainak Sarkar, a 38-year-old Bengali American scientist who received his  doctorate in 2013 and his US permanent residency in 2014. Sarkar is suspected of having killed two victims — his ex-wife, Ashley Hasti who was found dead in Hasti’s home in Minnesota, and his former graduate mentor, Prof. William Klug, who was shot in Klug’s office on the UCLA campus — before Sarkar took his own life.

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Why It Matters That Both Civilian Victims of the Planned Parenthood Shooting were People of Colour

November 29, 2015
One of the three victims killed in the shooting Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado is from the islands, her family has confirmed. Family members identified the woman as Jennifer Markovsky, a 1997 Waianae High School graduate. (Photo credit: handout, via Denver Post)
Jennifer Markovsky, one of the three victims killed in the shooting Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. (Photo credit: handout, via Denver Post)

On Friday, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear entered a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and opened fire with a long gun. For hours, Dear exchanged gunfire with police officials, killing two civilians and one police officer. Dear was taken into custody after the day-long standoff, and is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow. Dear’s motive remains unclear, but news media are reporting an unnamed police official source who claims that Dear made remarks about “baby parts” upon his arrest suggesting that the crime might have something to do with the unfounded accusation by anti-abortionists earlier this year that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit (they don’t).

News coverage over the weekend has focused on the identity of the police officer — Officer Garrett Swasey — who was killed by Dear during the shoot-out. As of today, however, the identities of the two civilians killed by Dear has also now been released, and it should not go unnoticed that both victims were people of colour.

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South Asian American man wanted to kill women at UW in emulation of Elliot Rodger

June 17, 2014
FBI report of threats published by Keshav Bhide under the screen-name "Foss Dark", declaring his intent to engage in a mass shooting like Elliot Rodger.
FBI report of threats published by Keshav Bhide under the screen-name “Foss Dark”, declaring his intent to engage in a mass shooting and then kill himself, like Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger.

(H/T Jeff Yang (@originalspin))

Less than a month ago, Elliot Rodger stabbed to death his three Asian American housemates and then went on a shooting spree in the residential college town of Isla Vista, randomly targeting women and their boyfriends as alleged punishment for society’s emasculation of him. I wrote about how Rodger’s actions were symptomatic of society’s larger definition of masculinity; I coined the term “misogylinity” to describe hegemonic masculinity’s toxic and misguided assertion that men should pursue and covet a masculinity defined relative to the sexual commodification of women.  I further discussed how issues of masculinity are of particular interest to the Asian American community, where the racial pain arising from stereotypes of emasculation is explicitly political, and which has rationalized the pursuit — often uncritically, and sometimes outright problematically — of misogylinistic notions of manhood.

I concluded that while misogyny, masculinity and misogylinity is America’s problem at-large, it is Asian America’s problem, too. In some corners of Asian America, radical misogyny incubates virtually unchecked.

Yesterday, a 23-year-old South Asian American man by the name of Keshav Mukund Bhide was arrested and held on $150,001 bail after posting numerous online comments idolizing Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger through YouTube and Google+, the latter through his account name “Foss Dark”. Bhide is a student at the University of Washington.

Bhide posted several comments calling Rodger’s “Day of Retribution” “perfectly justified”, and threatening to follow in Rodger’s footsteps. On May 30, Bhide wrote a comment on his own sharing of a YouTube video, saying that he “would have done exactly the same shit” but that he “would have killed only women”.

In explanation for his misogyny, Bhide cited a trope that again is all-too-familiar within the Asian American community: he rationalized his anger against women for society’s rejection of men who are “short” and who have an “ugly face”.

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One Asian American victim, another an Asian American hero, in SPU shooting

June 6, 2014
Paul Lee, 19, in a photo posted on a class website.
Paul Lee, 19, in a photo posted on a class website.

Yesterday marked another grim incident in this nation’s ongoing litany of gun violence. A man, identified as 26-year-old former LA Fitness janitor Aaron Ybarra walked into Seattle Pacific University’s Otto Miller Hall and opened fire with a shotgun at point-blank range, killing one person and wounding three others.

When I first heard about the incident yesterday, I scoured the web, hoping that the victims or the perpetrator were not Asian American. Something about Elliot Rodger — who is biracially Asian American — and his deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista had me hyper-sensitive. I just couldn’t help thinking: “no, please, our community can’t take any more tragedy”.

I wish I had been right.

Yesterday’s single fatality at SPU — who was pronounced dead at Harborview Medical Center — has now been identified as 19-year-old Paul Lee, a Korean American freshman from Portland who reportedly enjoyed dancing and “eating delicious food”. Friends and family remember Lee as a “lively” person who made the classroom fun.

On Facebook, Albert Lee, Paul Lee’s brother, posted about his anguish:

“At a time when we feel a level of loss, grief, and pain we couldn’t have ever imagined, we are so overwhelmed by all of the thoughts and prayers from the community.

“At this moment all we can ask is to continue to remember Paul and all that he has left behind for us. Thank you all for blanketing us with your kind words, we will thank you all individually in due time.

“Paul, you handsome shekki, we miss you and love you more than you know. Keep dancin’ in heaven.”

The term “shekki” is an expletive in Korean, but between friends it’s used as an endearment.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Lee family. The loss of yet another young man — barely older than a child — by gun violence, wounds deeply. That he is now the fourth Asian American man to die in relation to a mass shooting on a college campus in the span of two weeks is unfathomable and senseless.

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Masculinity vs. “Misogylinity”: what Asian Americans can learn from #UCSB shooting | #YesAllWomen

May 28, 2014
The wreckage of Elliot Rodger's black BMW sedan after his deadly shooting rampage Friday evening. (Photo credit: Jae C. Hong / AP)
The wreckage of Elliot Rodger’s black BMW coupe after his deadly shooting rampage Friday evening. (Photo credit: Jae C. Hong / AP)

On Friday evening in the residential neighbourhood of Isla Vista in Santa Barbara, California, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed his three young Asian American housemates – George Chen, 19 , Weihan “David” Wang, 20, and Chen Yuan “James” Hong, 20 – to death while they slept. Rodger then drove his luxury BMW coupe to the Alpha Phi sorority where he opened fire with two legally purchased handguns on three female passersby; two – Katherine Cooper, 22 and Veronica Weiss, 19 – were killed, while a third is recovering in hospital. Rodger proceeded to the nearby I.V. Deli Mart and fired randomly into the store, killing Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20. He then drove through the streets of Isla Vista, shooting randomly at pedestrians and striking two cyclists with his car; by the end of the night, he had wounded 13. A brief firefight ensued between him and sheriff deputies, which ended when Rodger crashed his car into another vehicle. Rodger was found dead in the drivers’ seat of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

By Saturday, several YouTube videos created by Rodger – including one uploaded just hours before the attack that appeared to offer a motive for the deadly shooting – were discovered, along with a 140-page autobiography-turned-hate-fueled-manifesto. These items, along with Rodger’s frequent posts on BodyBuilding.com and PUAHate.com forum boards paint a disturbing – and disturbingly detailed – portrait of a narcissistic, mentally disturbed, lonely, woman-hating man-child so deeply twisted by American racism, classism, and sexism that he found a way to rationalize mass murder. Sparked by an abundance of macabre primary source material, over two hundred thousand news articles and think-pieces have now been written about Rodger (according to Google’s latest count) and the feminist hashtag #YesAllWomen – initiated in response to Rodger’s documented misogynistic motives – remains one of the top 5 trending topics on Twitter.

I have over the last four days stayed silent on the UCSB shooting as I tried to parse my own thoughts on Friday’s violent attack. I watched some of the YouTube videos and read Rodger’s manifesto.

In the end, I couldn’t shake the same chilling reaction I felt when I first read about Friday night’s violence: I had seen Elliot Rodger’s brand of radical hatred before. I had seen it within the comments section of my own site for a decade. I had seen it from members of my own community.

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