These past couple of years have exposed the severity, dysfunction, and brutal mistreatment of people of color committed by police officers. Although it is apparent that there are deep rooted origins with the subjugation, murder, and exploitation of black and brown people from those who swore to protect and serve, technology has magnified just how broken the criminal justice system is.
Despite case after case of irrefutable evidence–video, audio, witness testimony, whistleblowers, historical misconduct–suggesting that officers are abusing their authority, history has painted the unequivocal perception that all cops are above reproach, inherently forthright, and can kill, maim, or injure with impunity. The lack of accountability for the officers has manifested racially charged environments all over the country.
Logically, given the number of people of color unjustly captured by the wrath of the law, it is expected that there would be protests from all races, to say the least. And actually there has been: some much more vocal than others. But surprisingly, Asian-Americans haven’t been as roisterous as one would expect about police brutality against black people, especially considering blacks are one of their biggest consumers in this country.
However, it wasn’t until Chinese-American officer Peter Liang was convicted of second degree manslaughter for unmeritedly killing unarmed, non-threatening African-American Acai Gurley, have Asian-Americans decided to stand up in “herds” to speak out against white racism.
On November 20, 2014, Gurley and his girlfriend were frustrated by the long wait of the elevator in a Brooklynn housing project, and decided to take the stairs instead. Two officers–Liang and Shaun Landau, entered the unlit stairwell: Liang with his gun drawn. Blindly, he shot into the stairwell, “accidentally” shooting and killing Gurley.
This situation in and of itself is tragic, but Liang’s fate was sealed after he failed to administer aid to save Gurley’s life. Instead, he and his partner quarreled over who would call the shooting in. But now that Liang has been convicted, Asians are protesting in his defense. Many believe that the system is using him as a “scapegoat” to “satisfy a segment of his constituency with long-standing grievances about police mistreatment.”
This case can be considered an exemplification of the bias that the criminal justice system exhibits towards officers of color. However, instead of Asians coming from their “hidden spaces” to speak out against all “colors” of police brutality, they challenge, “Why is Liang, this rookie Asian-American cop, possibly going to prison for a tragic accident while others are never even charged?”
New York Post freelance writer, Shirley Ng, argues that Liang’s conviction “victimizes” the Asian-community. She believes that the conviction “was wrong and should be struck down. It was a tragic accident, for which this punishment doesn’t fit the crime — which really wasn’t a crime at all, only a horrible mishap.”
Now I don’t know about you, but speaking candidly as an African-American woman, this ruffled my feathers. Ng and her Asian comrades are angered that Liang didn’t benefit from white privilege. They weren’t collectively provoked by cops’ abuse of power devastating black communities. Oh no! They are incensed that it was an Asian cop that was finally held accountable for police misconduct.
“Officer Liang received different treatment than other non-Asian police officers who have committed similar, or worse, acts of violence,” Asians argue. So what, he is a “victim” because the system failed to adhere to the status quo in his case? He was still complicit in the same system that has preyed on black lives. And now Asians finally feel betrayed and provoked because Liang didn’t “qualify” to benefit from white racism.
What message does Asian-Americans believe this stance sends to the African-American community? Quite frankly it suggests that Asians want to benefit from white privilege at the expense of other minorities. “Make no mistake about it: New York’s Asian-American community couldn’t be more united and outraged by this miscarriage of justice,” Ng clarifies. What “miscarriage of justice” is she referring to? His conviction of manslaughter takes into account that he hadn’t acted out of malice, despite the fact that his actions were negligent. So what is the real issue?
Facebook group Fusion posted a video of 22-year-old Asian-American Jess Hong who claimed that Asians “are not asking for white privilege” or to be “included in the cycle of systemic injustice,” but unfortunately I am not convinced. Hong declares to simply be “hurt” by the “structural oppression and the racism that continues to pervade this country.” However, where was the collective hurt and energy when “structural oppression” and “racism” victimized Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and the multitude of other black and brown people?
Where has the Asian outrage been time after time white police officers have avoided acquittals, despite being captured on video shooting a black man in the back, stomping and beating a non-threatening person of color, and even planting and falsifying evidence to suggest that they were victimized? I’ll tell you what many of them were not: bothered or disconcerted.
They were sitting silently, preserving their believed favorability among whites. Asians thought that being the “model minority” prevented them from getting caught in the clutches of systemic racism. Liang has exposed them to the reality or consequence of being a minority in this country.
Asian-American The Love Life Of An Asian Guy does a superb job in explaining why Hong’s protest in Liang’s defense shows the hypocrisy of the Asian community.
Wanting equal treatment for all is vastly different than wanting access to white privilege because the very nature of white supremacy is oppression. Wanting white cops to face the same justice as Peter Liang and other officers of color is construed as equal treatment and is only fair. However, declaring that Liang is a “victim” and asking that he be exonerated, despite the fact that he was complicit in the same reprehensible act that has sparked movements all over this country suggests that collectively the Asian-American community lacks empathy and is callous towards black injustice.
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