I thought I was pretty hardened after my cousin Stephen Guillermo’s recent
shooting death. But when I heard about the Isla Vista rampage and the 7 dead and
13 wounded, I realized Stephen’s case was just a subset of the larger picture of
gun violence in America.
Once you’ve experienced the pain and senselessness of it all, mass murders like
Isla Vista are just too much to bear.
And then there’s the race dimension. That the killer, Elliot Rodger, was
half-Asian (Chinese on his mother’s side) probably wasn’t the first thing you
heard as people analyze root causes for his actions over this Memorial Day
weekend. But if you read his manifesto, it certainly makes the point loud and
and clear. Rodger didn’t like being Asian, and he saw it as a flaw in his quest
for women–especially his preference. The murderer preferred blondes.
Women and sex, or the lack of them, was what life was all about for Rodger, a
self-described un-kissed virgin at age 22.
Race definitely played a part, along with class and misogyny, in Rodger’s “Day
of Retribution,” his revenge for his “miserable, lonely, celibate life.”
It’s all in his 137-page “manifesto,” a late cry for help in the age of the
Rodger’s roots are exposed in this verbal “selfie.” In it, Rodger chronicles the
evolution of a young man’s awkwardness from adolescence to young adult. It’s a
half-Asian kid assessing his self-worth–at age nine. And it’s not pretty:
I realized, with some horror, that I wasn’t “cool” at all. I had a dorky
hairstyle, I wore plain and uncool clothing, and I was shy and unpopular. I was
always described as the shy boy in the past, but I never really thought my
shyness would affect me in a negative way, until this point.
This revelation about the world, and about myself, really decreased my
self-esteem. On top of this was the feeling that I was different because I am of
mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the
normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with. I envied the cool
kids, and I wanted to be one of them. I was a bit frustrated at my parents for
not shaping me into one of these kids in the past. They never made an effort to
dress me in stylish clothing or get me a good-looking haircut. I had to make
every effort to rectify this. I had to adapt.
“My first act was to ask my parents to allow me to bleach my hair blonde. I
always envied and admired blonde-haired people, they always seemed so much more
beautiful. My parents agreed to let me do it, and father took me to a hair salon
on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills.
Choosing that hair salon was a bad decision, for they only bleached the top of
my head blonde. When I indignantly questioned why they didn’t make all of my
hair blonde, they said that I was too young for a full bleaching. I was furious.
I thought I looked so silly with blonde hair at the top of my head and black
hair at the sides and back. I dreaded going to school the next day with this
weird new hair.
When I arrived at school the next day, I was intensely nervous. Before class
started, I stood in a corner franticly trying to figure out how I would go about
revealing this to everyone. Trevor was the first one to notice it, and he came
up to me and patted my head, saying that it was very “cool.” Well, that was
exactly what I wanted. My new hair turned out to be quite a spectacle, and for a
few days I got a hint of the attention and admiration I so craved.
Unfortunately, dye jobs don’t last. But Rodger was hoping life was one big
“Boy-meets-Jennifer Aniston” pop culture fantasy, where life was spent chasing
the trappings of “cool.” To Rodger, that meant Armani shirts, Hugo Boss tennis
shoes, and shiny BMW cars. He even had a narcissistic mantra he said to himself
to boost his confidence: “I am the image of beauty ad supremacy.”
No wonder girls didn’t like him. Rodger thought attracting women came down to
having money. He thought about getting rich through writing an “epic” novel or
screenplay, then got discouraged. Instead, he spent hundreds of dollars trying
to win the lottery. That didn’t work. Of course, he was more privileged than
poor. He often traveled first class with his family to Asia and Europe. But that
wasn’t getting him his idea of the holy grail–sex with some hot blonde. He grew
angry and frustrated. With his sexless life, he turned up the self-hate:
I came across this Asian guy who was talking to a white girl. The sight of that
filled me with rage. I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because
I was half-Asian, but then I see this white girl at the party talking to a
full-blooded Asian. I never had that kind of attention from a white girl! And
white girls are the only girls I’m attracted to, especially the blondes. How
could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful
Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage. I
glared at them for a bit, and then decided I had been insulted enough. I angrily
walked toward them and bumped the Asian guy aside, trying to act cocky and
arrogant to both the boy and the girl. My drunken state got the better of me,
and I almost fell over to the floor after a few minutes of this. They said
something along the lines that I was very drunk and that I needed to get some
water, so I angrily left them and went out to the front yard, where the main
partying happened. Rage fumed inside me as I realized that I just walked away
from that confrontation, so I rushed back into the house and spitefully insulted
the Asian before walking outside again.
The scene actually led to an incident in which Rodger broke his leg, which
fortunately delayed his “Day of Retribution,” by a year.
Rodger’s screwed-up memoir has much you can point a finger toward. There are
race, class and gender issues galore. His sexual repression actually leads to an
extremely misogynistic world view, which makes it clear we are dealing with one
Through it all, Rodger says he was under psychiatric treatment and was
prescribed Risperidone, an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia and mixed
manic states of bipolar disorder. But he said he refused to take his meds and
complained that his psychiatrist gave him “the same useless advice that every
other psychiatrist, psychologist, and counsellor had given me in the past. I
don’t know why my parents wasted money on therapy, as it will never help me in
my struggle against such a cruel and unjust world.”
How do you treat someone like that?
Rodger had no problem legally buying two handguns worth nearly $2,000, and even
escaped a Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. “welfare” check in April.
“Just didn’t meet criteria for further intervention,” Sheriff Bill Brown told
CBS Face The Nation. “Wish we could turn the clock back.”
So do the victims.
Roger’s manifesto said he wanted to kill his brother and stepmother.
He didn’t get to them.
But his anti-Asian self-hate was evident when he wrote of his two Asian
roommates. “These were the biggest nerds I had ever seen, and they were both
very ugly with annoying voices,” Rodger wrote. He called them “repulsive” and
I knew that when the Day of Retribution came, I would have to kill my
housemates to get them out of the way. If they were pleasant to live with, I
would regret having to kill them, but due to their behavior I now had no regrets
about such a prospect. In fact, I’d even enjoy stabbing them both to death while
The two roommates, Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, and George Chen, 19, from San Jose, were
found dead and identified late Sunday.
A third Asian, Weihan Wang of Fremont, was the third person killed inside the
apartment, but it was unclear if he was a roommate or just visiting.
Three in his apartment began the killing spree that ended with a gun rampage
that claimed three more lives, all of them students at University of California,
After my experience with my cousin’s death, all that enabled his shooter–the
laws, the gun lobby–enabled and emboldened Rodger. All that needs to change.
Rodger was confused but harmless until he gunned up.
That was all it took for Rodger to turn his fantasy into a deadly and senseless
tragedy in Isla Vista.