Back in February, Kenneth Eng made news for writing a column titled “Why I
Hate Blacks” in the Bay Area–based newspaper AsianWeek. Not a stunt—Eng apparently really did hate black people (and whites, and even other Asians, according to other of his writings). Embarrassed by the publicity, AsianWeek fired Eng and published a front-page apology.
But Eng is far more bent on destruction—or just plain bent—than anyone realized.
Eight hours after the executions of 32 students at Virginia Tech, Eng posted a grainy video of himself on YouTube. “Good morning, America,” says an exuberant Eng from his New York apartment, “I’d just like to say that I just read about the Virginia Tech incident and it was the funniest thing I ever read in my life.”
The video was pulled, and then reposted a week later. But now, Eng tells the Voice that he has something else to say about Cho Seung-hui’s bloody rampage in Virginia: He wants credit for it.
Eng likes to believe that his own hate-filled writings about non-Asians motivated Cho, and as far as we can tell, he’s serious. Eng also claims to “admire” Cho for the worst individual mass-murder in American history, and tells the Voice that he, at one time, planned to go on his own killing spree while he was a student at NYU, but couldn’t afford a firearm.
“It’s speculative but I think that there is a good chance that Cho may have read my work,” says Eng. “I might have had something to do with [the VT shootings] because it’s kind of conspicuous that [Cho] would shoot all these people so shortly after AsianWeek published all my articles.” Cho, in his manifesto, railed against “you,” making no reference to race. But Eng believes he understands why Cho felt compelled to commit the murders and applauds him for doing so. “A part of me wishes I was Cho,” says Eng, who is the same age as the murderer, 23. “He is my hero.”
To explain Cho’s rampage, Eng points to the way Asians are stereotyped. “Look at Hollywood,” he says. “How many Asian heroes have you seen? If you watch just a few minutes of television, Prison Break, Lost, and 24 all have Asian villains.” To Eng, the Virginia Tech shootings were a victory for Asians in America.
Eng says Cho’s life—his being institutionalized, stalking female classmates, and professors feeling threatened by his presence in class—eerily resembles his own. Eng was committed, and he was suspended from NYU after spitting on a white classmate. He also admits to stalking a white female student. “All the white and black kids cared about was sucking up to each other and that just really pissed me off,” Eng says of his college classmates. “It would be OK if they kept it to themselves, but what they did was literally try to ruin my life.”
Eng turned over examples of tension-filled correspondence with NYU officials during his days as a student. “I wrote a script where I stereotyped whites and blacks, and said that the average white girl is an absolute whore. The teacher went to the dean and had everyone in an uproar. No one would talk to me anymore. That’s when I realized how disgusting these people were.”
In a 2003 memo Eng provided between two Tisch School of the Arts deans, one official wrote: “It is my belief that Kenneth poses a real threat to the Tisch community and has the capacity to harm or kill someone . . . I would like to offer Kenneth the opportunity, in lieu of a disciplinary hearing, to withdraw from NYU with a refund for the semester.”
Eng says NYU officials were correct to be concerned about him. “Frankly, I was planning on going to NYU and going on a rampage,” he says. “The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn’t afford a gun.”
NYU officials declined to comment about Eng.