A close friend of mine recently pointed out that Asians tend to be the observers of America. Her statement scintillated a previously dormant thought in my mind: Why do Asians tend to be marginalized? Why are we the given the stereotype of being “observers” rather than people of action or ones with voices to be heard? Is it due to inadequate media exposure of the Asian culture, or do we choose to adhere to the label of modesty? With such widespread problems ranging from the Paris shooting, to the American presidential debates, to the refugee phenomenon of Syria, the Asian American community does not seem to take precedence in news coverage.
That is, until the story of Peter Liang surfaced. It was then that I realized that we’re not only marginalized, but also made scapegoats by the laws of white American privilege.
In 2014, Peter Liang (NYPD) wielded his gun and opened fire, shooting unarmed Akai Gurley (black American). Before Liang and his partner called for medical assistance, Gurley passed away. Liang has since been convicted for second-degree manslaughter for the death of Gurley. Since this event, Asian American communities have banded together to shed light on quite a few issues erupting from Liang’s case, as well as issues regarding the Asian community’s place in America.
Peter Liang should and is paying for his actions against Gurley, but why is it that he is paying for consequences that a plethora of white police officers have escaped for so long? I recall the atrocities committed by Eric Casebolt, who used brute force and even pulled out his gun to shut down a party in McKinney, Texas. Video footage surfaced showing the police officer violently dragging and throwing a black teenage female across the lawn. Casebolt resigned and an investigation has taken place; however, the message is clear: Casebolt is protected by his whiteness from any real form of punishment. In fact, he was later hired by Arizona Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, to be the head of his SWAT unit. To elevate my point, half-white George Zimmerman was acquitted of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, and white police officer Darren Wilson escaped indictment on the account of Michael Brown’s death. Peter Liang has committed a crime, but so have numerous other white police officers. Yet, they are not subjected to a fitting degree of punishment. Why? Because they are white.
White privilege entitles a sense of superiority, and perpetuates systematic oppression. This said, I am not suggesting that Asian Americans should be entitled to the same privileges. Peter Liang’s case hits home to Asian communities because contrary to popular belief, we DO care about the issues arising in Black versus White America and how we fit within the framework of it. However, we are often silenced or marginalized. Our voices get lost in the binary of the white and black of America, and it is not okay. Peter Liang’s case is not necessarily unique in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, and this is far from me saying All Lives Matter (because that is just another example of white privilege at works). I am saying All Voices Matter, but it is only the white ones that are being heard. The criminal justice system is clearly in need of some serious modification, but I will even go as far as saying that in all 19 years since my immigration to America, it has become progressively evident that this country is broken in several ways. Peter Liang, Akai Gurley, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland are just examples of the many who are continually oppressed under the weight of white privilege and who serve as an indictment to America’s broken ways.