Kirsten West Savali: Why Black America Should Care About Private Danny Chen’s Suicide

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In a tragic story that could have played out on many college campuses across America, Private Danny Chen, 19, committed suicide on October 3, 2011, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after suffering horrific and continual hazing at the hands of eight U.S. Army soldiers.

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Chen had only been deployed to Afghanistan for six weeks, but his family revealed in a press conference that their son documented several instances of racial attacks in troubling letters that he sent home.

From being called “gook,” “chink,” and “dragon lady” to being forced to wear a green helmet and shout orders in Chinese, Chen painted a picture of intolerance and racism that is a familiar poison in many venerated American institutions, the most powerful and protected among them being the U.S. Army.

Chen, a resident of New York’s Chinatown, was discovered in a guard tower with a “self-inflicted gun-shot wound” to the head, the Army said in a statement. Though that may very well be the “official” cause of death, the systemic and systematic violent racism that Chen endured for such a brief, intense period has the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) prepared to do battle against the culture of hatred toward Asian soldiers serving this country while simultaneously being ridiculed for their ethnicity.

via Why Black America Should Care About Private Danny Chen’s Suicide | News One.


16 Comment

  1. I served in the Militaryfrom 1961 thru 1969 in the United States Air Force. I served at a time when many whites would not even look at me, but they respected me. You can not get someone’s respect by going all out to get their acceptance and approval. I cringe when I hear blacks say that they have never run into racism during their entire Military careers. I am sure they used the “N” word out of my presence, because they used words like gook, slant eyes, Pollock, Jew and many names for whites of all races. I have been present (basic training) when in-appropiate words were directed to another black and it brought instant licks to the head of the one who had loose untrained words and thoughts. We should not waste our time worrying about what whites think of us, just don’t become a low life Herman Cain of Clarence Thomas as you make your way through the trenches. Don’t get drunk with people and tell jokes with anyone of any race to win acceptance. On the last job that I worked for Eighteen (18) years, even the president of the company called me Mr. Goodwin. You cannot buy your way in by compromising yourself, if you want to be respected over the long term.

    • very well said

    • I second that, very well written!

    • @Ronald Goodwin. Thanks for sharing your experience. Black people especially young people need to hear more stories like this. As far as this young man hopefully they will get to the truth of why he took his life.

    • If there would have been an equal number of Chinese Americans in Mr. Chen’s squad, company, or platoon those racist bigoted bullies would have been dealth with without hesitation.
      Racist Bully’s (Bullies) are big and bad when they outnumber you 100 to one.
      I recall an incident that happpen on the hill at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1967 when a group of Puerto Ricans GIs’ were involved in a tough rumble with a group of white GI’s who out numbered the Puerto Ricans ten to one. The Black GI’s came to rescue of the Puerto Ricans GI’s and they together kicked mucho ass all over the hill until the many MP’s arrived from all over the base, and base was put on lock down for two days until the tensions cooled.

      • Good for the black guys helping the ‘ little guy”. I have a puerto rican axquaintance that talks about racism. He grew up in a neighborhood mixed with many ethnic groups and he is appalled at the amount of racism in the United States at this time. He always says there needs to be a solution. How do you stomp out ignorance???

        • Rose: How do you stomp out racism without stomping out the carriers of the racism? Its people who discriminate at the banks and lending institutions, real estate corporations, the colleges and Universities, the private corporations, the hotels/motels, (the local, country and state police forces), the judicial system, the military, government services, public employers , small businesses, the insurance industry, the Congress, the Executive Branch of government, all churches, and in the professional sports arena.
          Can you cure racism by stomping out the carriers? Can you reform the carriers of racism without a bona-fide treatment plan? If racism is a disease how can you treat the disease when most of the carriers of the disease are in denial?

  2. Sadly, I’m not surprised in hearing of this. The practice of blanket training soldiers to target an people or ethnicity is long standing. As such you can expect this ethnocentric attitude to carry over to the next generation or so and present as aggressive, negligent, almost sociopathic behavior. To bearade a fellow soldier to a degree that suicide becomes a viable option is tragic and reprehensible. Training usually requires a gauntlet of physical, intellectual, emotional and even spiritual barriers to bolster strengths usually untapped, but when it delves into the personal realms, where fellow soldier’s bigotry may reside it becomes a whole different beast.
    What’s worth noting is the military’s past habit of covering up homicides and genders/ethnic crimes as suicides. The incident when the female African American soldier was raped, beaten, mutilated and subsequently set on fire was also initially ruled a suicide by administrators. It wasn’t until family and representatives pressed the issue with protest and threats of litigation was this information released. This incident may deserve jus as much scrutiny…

  3. @ Goodwin & Icaerus, yes your both right. I did 20 years (1976-1996), and the only thing you can do is go to your NCO’s. Where are the Non-Coms????? WHERE IS THIS SOLIDER’S CHAIN OF COMMAND?? The Army has not changed!!!! Still full of hate.

  4. WHITE SUPREMACY attacks all people of color ,including ASIANS its just that most of the time they aren’t vocal about it….

  5. the military is filled with more minorities than whites now. The racism is minimal in most units. This is 2011 , There is more to this story than they are saying. The word racism has to stop being a crutch for blacks.

    • alsharptonsbrothersays: Having historical accuracy about the facts of life is not a crutch but a basic truism to the importance of race in racist society.
      Show the readers on this site with evidentiary proof your assertion that the United States Military has more minorites than members from the dominant culture/whites?
      I’m waiting on your statement of facts.
      Have you been in most units of the US Military in 2011? Have you been to all 900 US bases overseas? If you have not visited said most units of the US Militay then you need to refrain from lying about what you assume to be the case about minorities.
      You win arguments with facts and statement of facts not with what you believe to be the case based upon your blind naked narrow-minded prejudices.
      How much formal training have you received in the area of race relations, racism, bigotry, bias, prejudice, and hatred. If you are the race scholar that you purport to be give us a list of your publications, and writings?
      What Law School did you attend? Paw Paw A & M in Paw Paw West Virginia!

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