On February 20th, thousands of Asian Americans in cities across the United States took to the streets to protest the conviction of Peter Liang, a NYPD officer charged with killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man. However, if the ultimate goal is combating racism, Asian Americans must stand in solidarity with other minority groups to demand greater overall accountability for police violence.
During a housing project patrol in 2014, Liang’s bullet ricocheted off a dark stairwell and killed 28-year-old Gurley. On February 11th, a jury charged Liang of manslaughter. As the first NYPD officer to be found guilty for a shooting in the line of duty in over 10 years, many protesters voiced suspicion that the conviction occurred because Liang was not white, but Asian. However, protesters who deemed Liang a “scapegoat” have focused on the wrong problem. This is an opportunity for Asian Americans to stand with other minority groups in the movement against police brutality.
The record of police violence against black people is fraught with abysmal accountability. In the stories that have caught national attention, white police officers have consistently failed to be indicted. But the claim that Peter Liang’s conviction is an example of discrimination fails to recognize the greater problem of racism within police institutions. Regardless of race of the police officers, greater accountability for all is a goal that everyone should be moving towards.
Asian Americans have been largely absent from these recent conversations concerning police brutality. This lack of support is unfortunate from a community that could greatly add to the critique of white power structures.
However, these discussions can begin now. Organizations on campus, including the Asian Desi Pacific Islander Collective, have facilitated discussions between members of the Asian American community and Black Lives Matter. Ashley Park, an international relations and global studies junior and officer for APAC, stressed the importance of opening dialogue as a starting point for greater solidarity between groups.
“I am in an organization that represents a community to be stereotypically, politically silent,” Park said. “Simply engaging in these discussions on events such as Peter Liang can become a catalyst for greater acts of solidarity. Our community has the need to engage, to understand, and to discuss.”
Hopefully, the conversation around Peter Liang becomes one focused on increased accountability for cops across the board. Asian Americans must go beyond the concerns of their own community and unite with other oppressed groups to earn justice for all.
Nemawarkar is a Plan II freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @janhavin97.