Friday, May 8, 2015

What Is Wrong With People?

This Week In Asian-American Reactivism.

It has been both interesting and disconcerting to observe events unfolding around the shooting of Akai Gurley by Chinese-American police rookie, Peter Liang. I alluded to the Liang case in a previous post in which I decried the offhanded manner in which Asian-American progressives and self-proclaimed justice advocates have all but condemned him to guilt weeks before he has even had his day in court.

The case has divided, somewhat, Asian-Americans into two camps: on the one hand are those - mentioned above - who seem like a rabid lynch-mob determined to use any media means necessary to destroy the reputation and character of Liang and shape public opinion against him; on the other hand stand Chinese-American FOBs who obstinately refuse to allow the cynical application of justice to go unnoticed and unchallenged. Sadly, in addition to the attempts to taint Liang's reputation and character, Asian-American reactivism has sought to characterize those who support his cause as, by definition, anti-black.

A recent article by blogger, David Shih, that has made the rounds in Asian-American cyber-country, offers some insight into the issue, but doesn't start out well.
As a Chinese American, I know that my racial identity occupies a space in the cultural imagination somewhere between white and black. I know that white supremacy often works in my favor to give me privilege and the benefit of the doubt. I know that the world is this way until it isn't. Peter Liang, who is also Chinese American, must know this too. On February 10, a grand jury ruled to indict the NYPD officer for killing Akai Gurley, who is black.
Unfortunately, the agreed upon facts of the immediate aftermath of the shooting stand in blaring contrast to the above assertions.....
Officer Peter Liang told his partner Shaun Landau, 'I think I'm going to get fired,' moments after he 'accidentally' fired his gun on Thursday evening at the Louis Pink Houses in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and before he was aware of the fact that he had even struck someone with a bullet.
Liang's reaction in the immediate aftermath of the shooting was the complete opposite of what one would expect if Shih's assertion are true. The rookie cop had no sense that he would be the beneficiary of privilege and that his mistake would go unpunished. If anything, in light of the recent killings of black men in the weeks before Gurley's death and the lack of indictments for the officers involved, Liang exhibits an acutely painful awareness that he would likely be treated differently than white officers - and this is before he had even realized that he had shot someone. He certainly seems not to have expected any kind of benefit of the doubt.

In fact, in choosing to serve in the police force, it is possibly far more likely that Liang was acutely aware that he was entering a profession in which has in the past discriminated against Asian officers and in no way shown any proclivity towards "privileging" them. It is simply dishonest - not to mention inflammatory - to make a random generalization about the Asian racial experience, and then assert that this generalization applies to Peter Liang. But the Shih piece goes on in blissful oblivion....
But there should be no confusion: Peter Liang should stand trial. Liang's supporters are asking for the same standard that exonerated Wilson, Williams, and Pantaleo. It is a racist standard.
This is simply untrue, and such an assertion is unbecoming of anyone who is genuine about their claims to stand for justice. According to a press release - which Shih links to in his post and which he seems to not have read - the The Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights has this to say....
They...announced an upcoming day of rallies on April 26, 2015, to be held in cities across the Nation from NYC to California as a sign of protest against the unduly harsh and unequal treatment afforded the rookie police officer.... 
"The charges in the indictment against Officer Liang is to please the general public. Officer Liang is simply sacrificed for political reason," .... 
“Our community demands Officer Liang receives fair treatment under the law”....
The coordinated protests are a call to action for Asian-Americans, their neighbors, and allies to demand a fair trial and transparency from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, which has so far failed to address community concerns........ 
“The fact only Officer Liang was indicted raises many questions regarding fairness. Why was there no consideration of an indictment of “NYCHA” for failing to restore the lighting and causing a dangerous condition of darkness in the staircases? Why was only Officer Liang indicted for failing to immediately report the incident when Officer Liang’s partner was also present and also failed to immediately call in the incident?”...... 
“We understand that there's a loss of life. This was an unfortunate tragic accident. Officer Liang's misfiring should have been under NYPD disciplinary actions, not under our legal system. The charges are simply inappropriate,”.... 
“What we have here is a political prosecution,” Queens civil rights activist Phil Gim and Co-Chair of the CAACR said, continuing “the Brooklyn DA’s office thought they would easily steamroll the Chinese community and that we would stay quiet, but they were wrong. We’re standing up for ourselves, and we’re demanding that Peter Liang get the fair, unbiased treatment he deserves.”..... 
“Officer Liang is being used as a scapegoat,” Nassau County Community Leader and Co-Chair of the CAACR Doug Lee said. “As the tragic death of Akai Gurley was clearly an accident, there is no logical explanation for the severity of charges against him and the aggressive manner in which he is prosecuted. This is clearly selective enforcement of the law for political purposes.”....
Clearly, the above statements issued by Liang's supporters are making a far more nuanced argument than Shih seems willing to acknowledge. Instead of demanding that Liang simply not be prosecuted, they are demanding that charges be proportionate to the crime. The sentiment is repeated in an article covering a pro-Liang protest.....
[a protestor says] “I think it was an accident. He deserves a chance. I think his manslaughter charge is too high, but he should be charged with something, but not manslaughter. I think it’s an accident and accidents happen. I feel really sad for the victim’s family, but I don’t feel it is a criminal case. This one is an accident and hopefully the evidence will show that and that’s why we need to support Liang.”
If anything, Liang's supporters seem to have a more reasonable - and rational - grasp of the concept of justice than the progressive justice workers. There is not a single point made by Liang's supporters that has been adequately answered either by the actual prosecutors in the case or the online progressive Asian prosecutors who seem keen on a media trial for Liang.

That to me is big problem: if the points raised by Liang's supporters are valid, then there is no logical reason to oppose their point of view. In fact, some seem to agree that Liang's supporters make good points but then - bizarrely - conclude that the objectively unfair application of justice that has brought his indictment is, in fact, a good application of justice. In order to reach this conclusion, logic and reason are subjugated to ideology.

Racefiles....
If we begin from the premise that racism is unacceptable, then it does not make sense for Chinese Americans to rush to the defense of Officer Liang simply because he is a fellow Chinese.
Apart from the fact that this makes no sense, I am horrified that this thinking even comes into the debate. The writer seems to be asserting that race played a role in Liang's actions and the death of Gurley. This is extremely inflammatory and defamatory. Unless our friends in the progressive movement have some hitherto undiscovered evidence of a racial motive for Liang's actions and those of his supporters, they need to control their reactionary impulses and stick to the facts of the case. Remember now, that there is more at stake here than petty considerations of reputations and progressive justice worker credibility.

The problem with both the Racefiles and Shih articles is that there is very little to tie their claims and assertions to the actual case in any meaningful way - they neither shed light on Liang's actions nor on the actions and motivations of those who voice concern that Liang is a victim of injustice. Instead, they construct ideological racial narratives and squeeze the motives of the people involved into it, and present this as facts in the case and reasons why Liang should be unfairly treated. This is clearly - whether they realize it or not - a charge of guilt based on ideological grounds.

Again, there is no evidence that race played a role in Gurley's shooting - unless you choose to suspend intelligence to claim that Liang took out his firearm hoping that it would accidentally go off so that he could shoot blindly into a dark stairwell hoping to kill a black man. Furthermore, there is no merit to the claim that Liang's supporters are motivated by anti-black racism or that pushing for a proportionate application of justice for what amounts to a tragic rookie mistake upholds white supremacy.

Liang's supporters raise compelling points that - in keeping with the custom of ignoring Asian claims of racial injustice - are being ignored. It is the greatest irony that it is Liang's supporters who make no grandiose and pretentious claims of their own justice credentials - and not the self-proclaimed racial justice workers - who are actually challenging the establishment. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of Asian-American progressive"thinking" can't seem to formulate a meaningful assessment of the case that takes into account the nuances of race and justice. They very literally are unable to think outside of the "black/white" narrative box and therefore are unable to see anything other than black or white.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in an open-letter released on behalf of "more than fifty" Asian organizations calling for Liang to be cynically treated by the justice system.
As Asian and Pacific Islander community leaders and organizations from across the country, we strongly oppose calls coming from some members of the Asian American community to drop charges against NYPD Officer Peter Liang for the death of Akai Gurley.
This demand is misguided and utterly hurtful to Akai Gurley’s family and to communities that have been subjected to discriminatory and often deadly policing practices across the country.
We stand with Akai Gurley’s family and all those who have lost loved ones to police violence.
It is neither accurate nor honest - but it is highly inflammatory - to call Gurley's death an act of police violence or imply that it was in any way discriminatory. We are being asked to believe that opening a door holding a loaded gun is racist or indicative of racist intent and is an act of deliberate violence- and not simply and tragically an irresponsible thing to do. They go on......
 The fact that Officer Liang is Asian American shouldn’t mean that we as Asians and Pacific Islanders support him unequivocally. Quite the opposite — it should compel us to think about what justice looks like and how Asian Americans can contribute to the movement for police accountability and broader racial justice.
Police violence against Black communities is a systemic problem, and when police officers are not held accountable, they are enabled to kill with impunity. Without accountability for police officers who use deadly force and a complete and thorough overhaul of policing practices and other institutional policies in the U.S., we will have more Akai Gurleys and more Officer Liangs, more Mike Browns and Darren Wilsons, more Rekia Boyds and Dante Servins.
This would be laughable if the repercussions weren't so serious. The gist of this statement is that Liang should tried with the actions of specific acts of racially-tinged police brutality committed by people other than Liang himself in mind. Furthermore, justice should keep in mind systemic racism against blacks when trying Liang - in other words, he is to be held accountable for systemic racism even though none of these reactivists have presented an ounce of evidence that race, racism, or systemic racism had a role in Gurley's shooting. Thus, justice for Liang should be disproportionate to his crime merely because others - like Darren Wilson and Pantaleo - are guilty of racist policing and the system is racist.

It would be easy to believe none of the fifty Asian organizations cheer leading for the unjust and disproportionate charges leveled at Liang have even read any of the concerns voices by his supporters. The stated concerns of Liang's supporters show a far more nuanced position than merely one of providing unequivocal support based on race. They are fundamentally concerned that Liang's race is counting against him in the overly harsh charges being brought and the cynical application of justice. One need not even look beyond the Gurley case at the Tamir Rice and Eric Garner killings to notice the unequal application of justice at play.

To me, there seems to be a far more serious legal - and moral - transgression in Liang's failure to provide CPR than in the actual accidental shooting itself. If he had acted, then there remains the possibility that Gurley may well have survived. There were two officers on the scene and neither administered CPR, yet, only Liang is being charged for his failure to provide assistance. His partner - whose name is Shaun Landau  and whom I presume is non-Asian and possibly white - has not been charged.  Forget the failure to indict white officers in other cases - a, presumably non-Asian, officer at the scene who committed the same crime as Liang is not being charged for it.

The point here is that Asian progressives - with their unreasonable and irrational insistence on keeping America's race narrative firmly within the confines of the black/white narrative - seem literally to only be able to think in black and white. They don't seem able to conceive of the possibility that there could be levels of injustice being perpetrated within the same scenario. Charging Liang disproportionately to his actions - if true - is an injustice. To insist unquestioningly on seeing Liang disproportionately charged is not upholding justice, but rather is supporting vengeance at any cost. Liang should not be charged as some kind of pay back for the - far, far more serious police crimes where the intent to kill is objectively more obvious - of other members of law enforcement and the racist system itself. Nor should he be some kind of sacrifice to deflect criticisms away from racist law-enforcement and justice systems that enable it. This seems to be what the seemingly blood-thirsty Asian-American progressive movement is supporting unquestioningly. That is simply unjust.

Those who support Liang have made cogent points and raise some very significant questions regarding the cynical application of justice, and in so doing are challenging the establishment's presumptions and practices. By contrast, Asian progressives with their un-nuanced and childishly simplistic approach are fundamentally upholding the status quo of racial injustice in law enforcement and the justice system.

Akai Gurley deserves justice but that does not mean that it should come at any cost including the cynical, disproportionate application of it. Nor should it mean that Liang should be sacrificed to assuage public anger at other police killings and judicial failures to indict. Liang's supporters are asking the right questions that challenge the failures of the establishment and are calling for justice to be proportionate. This is a far cry from the inflammatory misrepresentation of their stance as merely some kind of racial tribalism. It clearly is not.

David Shih argues the following....
The CAACR claims that because Peter Liang is Chinese American, he is being treated differently from Darren Wilson, Sean Williams, and Daniel Pantaleo. But this possibility doesn't mean Liang shouldn't be tried...........Those supporting Liang only because he is Chinese American should know that they are not fighting racism. If the CAACR truly desires justice, it will not lobby for Liang to be treated the same as the white officers. To do so would be to ask for an ad hoc dispensation from a racist system.......
...which is simply false. As I've clearly illustrated, Liang's supporters have presented a far more nuanced stance than the one Shih misrepresents. As readers can see for themselves earlier in the post, the organization that Shih refers to - The CAACR - is not arguing that Liang not be charged. They are arguing that the charges are disproportionate and overly harsh for what even the prosecutor says was an unintentional shooting. Furthermore they argue that these overly harsh and disproportionate charges are only being - and can only be - brought and made to stick against a minority demographic that has little political influence and is mostly on the margins of the political agenda, such as Chinese-Americans. Furthermore, demonstrators who support Liang have explicitly stated that they believe that he should be charged, but that should these charges should be proportionate to the crime. But that fact does not win brownie points in the narrative.

2 comments:

  1. I wouldn't mind these jokers. Treats them like the rats that they are.

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  2. In their minds Asian=white, but we all know better than that. It's obvious Liang's indictment would have no effect on the police and would just be blamed as just those racist anti-blackness Asians being inherently racist again.

    ReplyDelete