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