School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

The fatal shootings in Monterey Park, California, in January – less than two weeks after a 6-year-old Newport News elementary school student shot their teacher – felt personal to VCU School of Social Work Assistant Professor Hollee McGinnis, Ph.D.

Headshot of Hollee McGinnis
Hollee McGinnis, Ph.D.

Dr. McGinnis was celebrating the Lunar New Year when she learned of the shootings in California, which killed 11 and injured nine. They were a call-back April 2021 and the killing of eight people, six of Asian descent, in Atlanta.

To help process and be a role model, she decided to share some of her emotions with her master’s students in her SLWK 710 social policy class. That included a poem she had written immediately after the Atlanta massacre.

That poem, titled “Rage,” was first presented at the Utah Women’s Narratives performance that premiered as an online and in-person event on April 15, 2021, and was subsequently published in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies.

Fires out.
But the embers
Still glow.

I don’t know
Which way
This will go. 

The fire
Has consumed
All that I had to give.

I am now left tired.
No energy.
A vague sense
of dread.

Rage is an alright emotion,
But it tires out
Too quickly.

I am left empty.
What else instead?

Eyes wide open
That things will
Continue to go this way. 

Until we are
Truly able to say
to each other: 

“You are my
Brothers and Sisters.
I would NEVER
Treat you this way.” 

You can have
Your likes and dislikes,
Your good days and bad. 

But please
Because you are mad.

Instead, turn that rage
Towards the hurt that you carry,
To a culture that also says
“You are not good enough for any….”

There within you
is where to begin
To learn to grow love,
accepting yourself,
And then each other,
as family and kin.

In trying to model radical self-care and anti-oppressive practices in the classroom, Dr. McGinnis felt it was an important teaching moment. “As is typical, when it is your in-group that is being hurt, you hurt that much more,” Dr. McGinnis told her students. “As an Asian-American (the) rampage in California was particularly painful; as a mom to two boys (7 and 14), the shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old in nearby Newport News, and the recent discovery of a middle schooler in my children’s school district carrying a gun, hit too close to home.

“The threat of violence and personhood are being battled right now on the floors of Congress at the federal, state and local levels – and on the streets. Replace ‘Asian American’ with Black, Latino, Native American, queer, poor, Muslim, immigrant, disabilities, neurodivergent.

“So if something comes up in the world and it is impacting you because it is a group you identify with, you let me know and I will respect what you need for radical self-care and self-advocacy.”

Dr. McGinnis referenced Jerry Won, a speaker, workshop facilitator and podcaster, who posted about steps for self-care for Asian Americans and anyone struggling after the Monterey Park shootings. He concluded with, “So whether you’re Asian American or not, let’s all ask ourselves how we can both be there for those we love …  and how we can work to minimize tragedies like this in the future.”

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