Saturday 03rd December 2016,

Asian Americans

Why Many Asian Americans Support Conviction of Peter Liang

posted by Susan Chang

Justice for Akai Gurley

By Susan Chang
AsAmNews Intern

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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11 Comments

  1. Whynewbi says:

    Why man Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: Wannabe Whiteness? Wtf are they talking about? Asians don’t want to be White, they have their own culture and traditions. These people are delusional.

    1. d.j. says:

      RE: Many Asian Americans support the conviction of Peter Liang: You mean not all Asians want to be white and when the panelist says that she doesn't mean in a cultural sense…She means in a status and privilege sense.

  2. EB says:

    RE: Why many Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: Poon is uninformed. The rally in support of Liang in NY began with a moment of silence for Akai Gurley. And the attempts to depict the support for Liang as anti-black are inaccurate.

    The demands of the people assembled was not for access to white privilege but an end to it.

    Poon and the other condescending panelists are probably reacting to things they have seen, or possibly only heard about, in The World Journal or other right wing Chinese language American newspapers. The reality is that those assembled today don’t want to see Liang walk free. The support for Liang is rooted in a desire to expose the selectivity of his prosecution.

  3. incady says:

    RE: Why Many Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: This article completely misreads the intention of those who support Peter Liang. First, everything I’ve heard from Peter Liang supporters is that the shooting of Gurley is a tragedy. Her 2 year old baby girl is now without a father – that is a tragedy no matter how you look at it. But THAT IS NOT THE ISSUE. Peter Liang’s gun went off accidentally – he never intended to shoot Gurley, and Gurley was innocent. But so is Peter Liang. The demonization of Peter Liang is pretty disgusting, linking him to police brutality. This was nothing like what happened to Eric Garner, and frankly, Poon should be ashamed of herself for accusing the Chinese American community of racism. Maybe she herself is racist, and this is just her way of projecting onto the community. I don’t understand why she’s saying the ridiculous things she is. The anger from the Asian American community is real. Instead of trying to come up with excuses, how about accepting the anger from the community?

    1. shantel says:

      Why Many Asian Americans support the conviction of Peter Liang: I’m Black and feel sympathy for Liang, but not much, because instead of helping by calling and ambulance or performing CPR he was calling his rep, so he’s not as innocent as you make him out to be, he should have acted like a human being.

    2. N Rochelle Harris says:

      RE: Why many Asian americans support conviction of Peter Liang: Are you kidding me? Chinese people are more racist than whites.

  4. Bob says:

    This article completely misreads the intention of those who support Peter Liang. First, everything I've heard from Peter Liang supporters is that the shooting of Gurley is a tragedy. Her 2 year old baby girl is now without a father – that is a tragedy no matter how you look at it. But THAT IS NOT THE ISSUE. Peter Liang's gun went off accidentally – he never intended to shoot Gurley, and Gurley was innocent. But so is Peter Liang. The demonization of Peter Liang is pretty disgusting, linking him to police brutality. This was nothing like what happened to Eric Garner, and frankly, Poon should be ashamed of herself for accusing the Chinese American community of racism. Maybe she herself is racist, and this is just her way of projecting onto the community. I don't understand why she's saying the ridiculous things she is. The anger from the Asian American community is real. Instead of trying to come up with excuses, how about accepting the anger from the community?

  5. Ben says:

    RE: Why many Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: Interesting discussion. It would have been much more helpful if the panel had included one or two supporters of Liang so that they could have said in their own words why it is that they support him? Otherwise, the discussion comes across as an exercise in name calling and stereotyping of people to whom you have not given the opportunity to give their side.

    Instead of a panel of opponents giving their two cents, why not actually have Liang's supporters on the podcast explaining for themselves why they are doing what they are doing?

  6. JC C. says:

    RE: Why many Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: The prosecution got it wrong. The jury got it wrong.

    It was a tragic accident. Peter Liang is not a criminal and as such should not have been prosecuted as one.

    Here is a quick summary of the background of the case. In November 2014, Liang and his partner, both rookie NYPD police officers, were sent to patrol a public housing building, a known dangerous place for residents who live there, the building managers, and for police officers who are sent to patrol there. As a poorly trained rookie in a darkened stairwell where the lights have been in disrepair for many months, Liang was highly nervous and accidentally misfired his gun when startled by a loud noise. Liang and his partner were on the 8th floor at the time, but incredulously, the wayward bullet hit the wall and then ricocheted downward and pierced Mr. Gurley’s heart who was just entering into the darkened stairwell on the 7th floor. Now the mathematical probability of this fluke accident happening is probably close to an infinitesimal zero, and the best shot in the Navy Seal probably could not make that shot even if trying very hard. Nonetheless, it happened, and Gurley died from the wayward bullet. It was plain and obvious that Liang had never intended to fire at Gurley. Liang didn’t even know that Gurley was at the lower level of the stairwell when his gun went off.

    While it is easy for the prosecutor to say that Liang should not have his finger on the trigger, is it unreasonable to expect when an officer is on high alert, he or she may have the discretion to be ready to fire at an imminent or unexpected threat in a dangerous environment? And the prosecutor conveniently neglected to tell the jury that two police officers were killed in the same area recently. And not being Superman, Batman, or Ironman etc., how many officers would not have their fingers on the triggers in similar situations?

    It is in recognition of police officers often being in the line of fire, and may make unintended mistakes in a dangerous situation, our legal system has mostly not pursued criminal prosecution for similar to or worse offenses than Liang’s. (Excerpts from Byron Shen)

    Peter Liang was unfairly and unjustly prosecuted. His conviction was an atrocity and must be overturned.

  7. Tan Ban Cheng says:

    RE: Why many Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: This is indeed a very sad day for the United States of America, a state founded on such lofty principles of justice.
    It is a sad day because the justice system has manifestly failed to stand on the same lofty ideals that the nation was founded when one of its Courts ruled that a Chinese-American police officer was guilty of manslaughter after a 28-year-old Black man died from a wound caused by a ricochetting bullet. Mind you, a ricochetting bullet!
    What does a ricochetting bullet do? It must bounce off from at least two surfaces. And do that before it lands on its victim killing him. And for the Court to agree with the jury and find the officer who discharged that ricochetting bullet guilty of manslaughter tantamounts to going on a frolic of its very own.
    You need never possess a law degree to appreciate the low probability of that bullet finding its victim. But still, the presiding Judge, in all his or her wisdom, has allowed the Court to ignore the low probability. Worse still, that Judge has failed the founding fathers and their lofty ideals when the Court he or she presided was allowed to go on a frolic all of its own on a matter that could have delivered a trend-setting judgment!
    Stephen Tan Ban Cheng
    Barrister & Solicitor
    Penang, Malaysia

  8. Oh Brother says:

    Re: Why many Asian Americans support conviction of Peter Liang: Because they do not want to admit they have #AsianPrivilege which trumps even #WhitePrivilege.

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