As soon as the protestors found out that the reporter was Asian, they stopped beating him and escorted him to safety. This makes you wonder what exactly happened to his white colleague. Would the beatings have stopped or did they end in his death? Not a very good way to build bridges.
As race and police violence become a higher-profile issue in America, many Asian-Americans are still trying to figure out where—or if—we fit in to the movement. Black Lives Matter is the highest-profile effort to push for minority rights in America right now. It was born of grievances just like those we’re seeing in Milwaukee; at each killing, whether Milwaukee or Baton Rouge or St. Paul, BLM emerges as the voice pushing for police accountability, for the full dignity of Americans who’ve been deprived of it. It’s also, explicitly, an African-American cause. Should Asian-Americans like me count ourselves part of the same effort to fight for minority rights, or are we at odds with it?
Asian-Americans—like all ethnic groups—are, of course, diverse in our origins and experiences, which means there are varying degrees of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve had lengthy arguments with my more conservative immigrant grandparents in San Francisco about stop-and-frisk, mass incarceration and racial profiling. We don’t agree on how much systemic racism versus personal responsibility factors into the plight of African-Americans. I’ve yelled at my grandparents, self-righteously accusing them of racism for failing to see how often the system cheats black people. I had thought this should be obvious to everyone, including Asian-Americans.
But the debate among Asian-Americans over BLM, I’ve since found, is messier and more nuanced. It is rooted in the immigrant experience, as well as political fissures within the Asian-American community. While it’s difficult to make generalizations about a population that’s made up of more than a dozen ethnic groups, there do seem to be two major camps that Asian-American activists fall into. One is supportive of BLM and sees the elimination of police brutality toward black people as a moral imperative on its own account, but also as a victory that will uplift all minorities. The other camp is much more skeptical of the movement, preferring to improve the justice system incrementally and focus on challenges that Asian-Americans face, such as difficulty accessing health care and low rates of English proficiency.
Relations between Asian-Americans and African-Americans were thrust into the spotlight in the case of Chinese-American police officer Peter Liang. In 2014, Liang killed Akai Gurley, a black man who was unarmed, in New York, by firing a bullet into a dark stairwell that ricocheted off a wall and hit Gurley in the heart. Liang was ultimately found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and official misconduct, and now must complete 800 hours of community service and serve five years of probation. (Last Tuesday, Gurley’s family reached a settlement with the City of New York for $4.1 million, and with Liang for $25,000.)
Among Asian-Americans, the reaction to the case was split. Thousands in cities around the country came to Liang’s defense with marches and money, arguing that Liang had been unfairly singled out: Many white police officers, they pointed out, hadn’t been charged after killing black men in similar circumstances. Others in the Asian-American community rallied for Gurley, asserting that it was important to stand in solidarity with BLM, and that all police officers need to be held accountable for violence against African-Americans.
With the recent eruption of police-involved shootings this summer—in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, Dallas and now Milwaukee—activists in Asian-American circles have renewed their dialogue about where they fit into BLM, with “a lot more voices [coming] out in solidarity in addition to voices on the other side,” according to Chris Kang of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, a coalition of Asian-American policy organizations.
One factor in some activist groups’ hesitancy to stand with BLM seems to be the fear that bringing race into any debate can turn society into a zero-sum game—one that Asian-Americans often lose. Asian-Americans are labeled, controversially, as the “model minority”—referring to the notion that many of us have achieved success in the United States through sheer hard work and determination. But we still must fight against discrimination in politics, workplaces and the media. When it comes to some key minority-rights issues like affirmative action, Asian and black communities can often sit on opposite sides of the fence. Some Asian-Americans believe a college admissions policy that lets more black students into the University of California system, for instance, ends up taking spots away from Asian families (though many Asian-American groups see this as a myth and support race-based admission factors).
Despite the relative high education rates and wealth of Asian-Americans, certain ethnic subgroups still strain under the weight of socioeconomic burdens, just as many African-Americans do. Affirmative action strikes some Asian-Americans, therefore, as unfair.
So where exactly do non-black minorities stand in this struggle? Their circumstances are far different from those of Asian roots, who actually had to pay money to get to America and worked for everything they got. However, if you'll notice that never has a black man who wasn't up to no good been shot by a police officer. It's hard to know the circumstances of anything without hearing the backstory. But it sounds like the BLM movement cares very little for bridging racial divide and wants nothing more than to exterminate and brutalize white people. So much for “equality”.