By Susan Chang
Supporters in the Asian American community of the conviction of New York officer Peter Liang in the death of Akai Gurley highlighted what they see as anti-blackness and a warped perception of justice during a Google Hangout Friday.
Organized by 18 Million Rising, the group sought to present a different perspective than the headlines in national media which painted the Asian American community as largely opposed to the conviction.
The hangout was held one day before today’s scheduled protests of the conviction being held in cities across the country. Panalists participating in the Hangout also hoped to humanize the victim Akai Gurley and his family.
The panelists began by analyzing the division within the Asian American community surrounding the Liang conviction. Dr. OiYan Poon, Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Loyola University in Chicago said “there is a misplaced anger … guided by anti-Black racism among the community,” particularly among the higher class standing, professional status Chinese Americans. She explains that instead of working with other people of color in solidarity, this group of the polarized Asian American community seeks to access White privilege. In the Liang case, the same immunity from conviction granted to White officers who shot unarmed Black men is the same privilege that this group seeks for Officer Liang.
To address the pervasiveness of the White privilege access and anti-Blackness narrative in this case, panelists Joo-Hyun Kang, Director of Communities United for Police Reform and Fahd Ahmed, organizer for Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), suggest contextualizing political education and history around the case. “We’ve got to build our political education in a way [that] … meet[s] people where they are,” Kang says. Ahmed suggests contextualizing the case with history and with the “understanding of how things came to be.” “Historical context [allows] clearer thinking to emerge,” Ahmed says.
In addition to putting things into historical context, the panelists also emphasized that the goal is to amplify the voices of the Akai Gurley’s family. The goal is not to make Asian faces the center of the narrative, says Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence member Meejin Richart, but to reframe the narrative around the fact that Akai’s right to live was stolen, and “showing our solidarity by putting in work”.
Richart talks about mobilizing the Asian American community around the #Asians4BlackLives solidarity in ways that humanize and provide genuine support for Akai’s family. “Justice looks like a lot of things,” she says, “not just the courtroom scenario.”
The Hangout ended on the importance of achieving justice in a way that doesn’t marginalize and undermine other communities. Rather, the Asian American community should be taking on the struggles of the Black community, and shaping how they think about their own struggles. “We understand there’s hurt and frustration by [not only] Chinese communities, but also the broader Asian American community because of this case,” Richart says, “But not at the expense of someone who was a father, a son, a nephew; he was a partner, and he was unjustly killed.”
Watch the Hangout here:
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