Monday, April 16, 2007

About The VA Tech Shooter's Ethnicity

[Posted by reader_iam]

Those of you who may have been reading my much-updated initial post about the mass murders at VA may have noted that I have not alluded to reports about the alleged ethnicity of the shooter. Yes, I saw a couple of references here and there (but from non-official sources) to that quite early on on the cable news channels I was tracking, and yes, I know that now Fox News, which I was not following all that closely today, is making a big point of this.

But I think we need to be careful. I did not include the information in my updates in my earlier post because it had not been confirmed. Because in this country, we jump to conclusions. Because I can very easily come up with obvious examples of "bandwagoning."

The ethnicity of the shooter has still not been confirmed officially, and it was specifically not confirmed at the press conference, which I blogged.

What bothers me--apart from the lack of official confirmation--is how the shooter is being described in terms of ethnicity, and by that I mean how ethnicity is being used without reference to whether the shooter is an American or not, etc.. I've seen, too many times, as an observer and back in the day when I worked in journalism, this tendency to classify by and emphasize whatever ethnic or race descriptive terms is being posed as a way to separate "monsters" as "the other"--certainly not one of us!

Well, of course, the shooter is "not" one of us, in the sense that most people aren't mass murderers. But you know EXACTLY what I mean, if you stop and think about it.

And it's a touchy time (well--when is it not?--but again, you know what I mean) to be talking about race and ethnicity and nationality. I think it's important to show an extra measure of responsibility--and specificity. Until we know more about that shooter, who he is and his background, and this is confirmed officially, I'm not going to address this issue. And I don't think that certain quarters which are making a pointed big deal, in the way they're making a pointed big deal, are acting responsibly or mindfully.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, that explains that.

Update: I'll be following the 2nd press conference here.

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