I’m Asian American, and this weekend’s Peter Liang’s protests show that Asian Americans too are marginalized against whites and majority

This weekend, New York cop Peter Liang was convicted for killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, while on duty, which carries a possible 5-15 year prison sentence. As a result, many Asian-American groups have gone out to the streets of NYC and Philadelphia to protest in solidarity with Peter Liang. The issue at stand is that while Peter Liang was convicted of murdering an unarmed person while on duty, while  white policemen, like Daniel Pantaleo, veteran police who killed Eric Gardner with a chokehold, Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, or Ryan Zimmerman, in the infamous Trayvon Martin case, are regularly acquitted of these killings.While many may say that the bigger issue is racial discrimination and racial profiling, as well as the disproportionate amount of people of color who are often targeted by police and also often serve longer sentences than whites for nonviolent crimes, one must note that it does not answer the fact that why Peter was convicted and the other white cops weren’t for their killings. The issue of racial profiling is an issue that all cops in America face, which lends itself to the side conversation of gun control, racial tolerance, and criminal justice reform as a whole. For it is with the vast proliferation of guns in America that threaten the safety of not only cops but also anyone when on duty and investigating cases.

However, one must also understand that Asian-Americans stand at a unique and somewhat awkward position in the US. With cultural stereotypes of Asians as “tributes to hard work, strong families and passion for education” and Asian-Americans as on the upper-echelons of the economic strata, Asian-Americans have been viewed as the “model minority” and thus looked upon with different lenses–Characterized as ‘privileged’ and not really considered minority, yet with unique Asian-American cultures, are not considered exactly mainstream as white Americans.)

Aside from the sheer disparity and competition that Asian students have to score on SATs (which in itself is already unfair to Asian students versus students of other races), the facts are still facts: Asian-Americans still only make up about 5.4% of the US population. Thus, many have certainly overlooked the struggles of Asian-Americans. For instance, Southeast Asian-Americans drop out of high school at an alarming rate: nearly 40% of Hmong-Americans, 38% Laotian-Americans, and 35% Cambodian-Americans do not finish high school. These groups, along with Vietnamese-Americans, earn below the national average. “Sweeping generalizations of Asian-Americans as the ‘privileged’ and ‘successful’ minority cannot replace unnerving disaggregated data that bring truth to the inequalities that many Asian-Americans face daily.” [2]

In addition, because of such “model minority” stereotypes overlooking the real struggles of Asian-Americans as well as other generic Asian-American stereotypes often not as the ‘toughest’ but rather more passive group, the US too is a new, unfamiliar, and daunting place for Asian-Americans. So with these stereotypes, in the midst of the “Black Lives Matter” and the racism/violence between whites and blacks, Asian-Americans have often been seen as not a minority. And as a first-generation Asian-American to Taiwanese immigrant parents myself, such violence and racial instability lately certainly keeps me on my toes and threatening of my well-being. In essence, as Asian-Americans with foreign culture and our parents often with language barriers, we too are victims of indirect racism and discrimination yet are not recognized nor our voices heard as much.

According to investigation sources, Peter Liang discharged his weapon in a “dark stairway” while “the bullet [merely] bounced off the wall” to hit the unarmed father and son, Akai Gurley. Meanwhile, for instance, Daniel Pantaleo with the chokehold of Eric Gardner had done it in broad daylight. Similarly, the police shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina also in broad daylight. Same with Darren Wilson. Clearly, he can see their “suspects” more clearly, presenting less of a threat to their lives than if it were done at night, as in Peter Liang’s case. Yet Daniel Pantaleo has yet to be tried, and Darren Wilson acquitted? While that contributes to the 2nd-degree nature of the murder than 1st-degree, Peter Liang was threatened, both as a police on duty conducting investigation as well as being an Asian-American amid the recent racially-charged climate of the US. He had to act in self-defense.

I stand in solidarity with both Peter Liang and Akai Gurley. Both were simply at the wrong place, wrong time. Both Asian-Americans and African-Americans experience racism and discrimination. Both are minorities with different struggles to overcome in the US. Therefore, what we should focus on is not to use Peter as a punishment, a precedent to cops killing unarmed people. Rather, we should focus on reaching out and even the playing field for all races, religious groups, for all people in general. We should focus on tackling criminal justice reform, dealing with the issue of urban and minority poverty (that is a significant cause of the disproportionate amount of people of color behind bars and their disproportionately longer sentences) through extra funding in education and welfare.

We are at a crossroads of 2016. We have had too much shootings and racial-profiling around the country. We’ve seemed to have forgotten the progress that we had built during the Civil Rights Movement. African-Americans have most definitely come a long way. But while there is still a long way for them to go, let us remember that there are others as well who are also in the void, beneath the shadows. While incidents like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, while heinous and racially-charged which certainly requires the unity of the African-American community to protest, the same should be with Asian-Americans as well. Our voices too should be heard, and heard loudly across the nation. The US is a land of diversity, we must accept each and every racial group in America, and treat each and every one of the same. I hope that through this entire experience (and, the protests), my fellow Asian-American friends would start to challenge our silence and call attention to our struggles. 亞裔美人萬歲!華人萬嵗!正義何在!

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.facebook.com/NowThisNews/videos/998175980272526/?pnref=story

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/10/16/the-effects-of-seeing-asian-americans-as-a-model-minority/model-minority-seems-like-a-compliment-but-it-does-great-harm

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steph-yin/peter-liang-protests_b_9289990.html

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MIT Hyperloop Competition

This past weekend, a team of MIT students won the first round of the SpaceX Hyperloop Design competition which was held at Texas A&M University. The hyperloop design consisted of a high scale transportation design, a concept originally developed by Elon Musk a few years back. Through this design competition, these MIT grad students came one step closer to fulfilling Elon Musk’s vision.

The vehicle that these students created will travel inside the hyperloop which will connect various cities to one another. This pod that the team developed will hover above the ground and will travel at a very high speed to transport people across various cities included in the route. In order to make the pod hover, the MIT students used magnets above a conducting plate.

The team will now build a miniature prototype to test in California this summer. In the past, MIT has been a part of several technological breakthroughs and now it’s appropriate that they contribute to progress in transportation as well. The team has strengths in areas such as mechanical and electrical engineering which helped them win the first round of the competition. The team is being supported by all of MIT and everyone awaits to see what happens in California this summer.