Correspondence: Nancy R. Zhang (email@example.com), spokeswoman for Philadelphia’s 2/20/2016 #Justice4Liang Rally
On February 20, 2016, rallies held at more than 40 cities involving over 100,000 participants voiced loud and clear our deep and serious concerns over the conviction of former NYPD officer Peter Liang. Looking back, we are particularly disappointed with CAAAV’s hasty and misguided response to this tragic incident. We admire CAAAV’s dedication to serving the disadvantaged communities to which Akai Gurley belongs. However, we believe that CAAAV’s stance on this issue runs counter to the values of equality and justice on which the group was founded.
We disagree with CAAAV’s statement that Liang’s accidental shooting is “part of the systemic targeting of black people by the police” — Liang did not even see Gurley until minutes after Gurley was hit by the bullet, and hence this could not have been a race-inspired shooting. We disagree with their statement that the incident was “part of the institutional injustice we see everyday with law enforcement.” True, this tragic accident reflects deeper problems that pervade our law enforcement, but Liang’s act, of misfiring a bullet in to a wall in a pitch dark stairwell, is a far cry from the cases of police brutality that the CAAAV rightfully opposes.
Akai Gurley’s tragedy reveals inadequacies in the training that young NYPD police officers receive before taking to the streets. It reveals the dangers associated with NYPD’s policy of assigning teams comprised solely of inexperienced rookies to patrol New York’s most dangerous zones. It underscores the need for comprehensive security upgrades throughout New York’s public housing developments. Making Peter Liang a poster child for the city’s long-due response to police brutality is both unfair and counterproductive. It is unfair to Peter Liang. It is unfair to the past victims of true police brutality. It impedes progress by reinforcing the idea that responsibility for Gurley’s tragic death falls solely on the one individual at the frontlines, and not on the flawed system that placed him there.
We would also like to take this opportunity to clarify the misunderstandings reflected by the statements on CAAAV’s website.
- By supporting Peter Liang and protesting against his conviction, we are not arguing for Liang’s innocence. We are protesting against the conviction of second degree manslaughter, which we believe to be too harsh.
• By comparing the legal outcome for Liang’s case to the outcomes for the shooting of Michael Brown and the choking of Eric Garner, we are not voicing support for those past jury decisions. We invoke these past cases to emphasize the political pressures that served as a backdrop to Liang’s unfair ruling, and to highlight the selective prosecution that is so blatant in this case.
The tragedy of Akai Gurley’s death unfortunately happened amidst strained relations between NYPD and black communities. Yes, Black lives matter, but justice matters too. We admire CAAAV’s efforts to end racial injustice and empower Asian communities. However, we do not agree with CAAAV’s comparison of Liang’s incident with the shootings of Michael Brown and Rekia Boyd. These shooting incidents are clearly of a different nature. We hope that CAAAV, a group known for fighting injustice in America, can provide a more nuanced perspective on this complicated case.
Generally speaking, mainstream media has a tendency to seek a scapegoat to subsidize public unrest over a specific issue.
Recently, I found myself in a surprising role as the “media spokeswoman” for the Philadelphia 2/20 rally. You may ask how did I stumble into that role, well, I will save the reminiscing for another time. I certainly did not see it coming.
Before this, race was never something that I talked about publicly. In fact, the subject of race is something very personal to me. For example, although I am proud of my heritage I chose not to join any professional organizations with a “Chinese” in its title. I feel strongly that, as an academic, I should be evaluated and grouped purely by the content of my ideas. Having grown up in America, I do not remember encountering discrimination.
As a second generation immigrant I felt, and still feel, very comfortable with being yellow in America. It is only the recent events in the news that bothered me on a deep level. Bad things happen in America to all races, but recently they seem to be happening at an increasing frequency to Asian Americans. There was the witch-hunt that led to the hasty arrest of Sherry Chen last year. And then of Xiaoxing Xi right here in Philadelphia. Now, we see this selective prosecution of Peter Liang. Was I oblivious before, or is this anti-Asian sentiment really gathering steam?
So, after this 220 rally for Peter Liang, a group of dedicated volunteers in Philadelphia are riding the momentum to start an Asian civil rights movement. I am proud to say that I am part of this passionate group! But before I start calling myself an activist, I have to figure out what this is all about.
Why are we doing this? Most second generation Chinese that I know do not seem to be bothered by the recent events. Many of these ABCs, or American Born Chinese, are also doing very well, through their hard work they are working in stereotypical non-Asian fields such as lawyers, artists, and even politicians. So, this racial “discrimination”, if we may call it that, is it unique to fresh-off-the boat (FOB) Chinese immigrants?
But, Peter Liang was second generation! Seems we can’t just wait for assimilation to be the solution. Even a second generation local kid gets treated this way. But how much of Liang’s unfair treatment was because of his skin color, and how much of it was because of his remnant fob-ness, his lack of assimilation? If he were an assertive, truly Americanized banana, would he have met the same fate?
At the press conference for the 220 rally I was asked the question “Do you think there was discrimination against Liang?” After hesitating, I said, “discrimination is a strong word. In Peter Liang’s case, there was unfair treatment. ”
In the following days, I lost quite a bit of sleep over this question. Was that the right way to answer it? My instinct was that in America people hate it when you play the race card. Or, more accurately, the white majority hate it when you play the race card. But we are playing the race card, why deny it? Yet, if Peter Liang were white, would I still think this outcome is unfair? Absolutely! But I probably wouldn’t feel strong enough to protest it on the streets.
So now, for this civil rights movement or whatever it should be called, our main goal is to get Asians to become more socially and politically engaged, to stop being the silent minority. How should that be achieved? And what role does assimilation play in all of this?
Will political involvement and social engagement come naturally as immigrants find and adjust to their new identity in this adopted country? For me, a second generation schizophrenic Chinese American, identity is an especially illusive concept. For everyone, finding identity in America must be a personal thing, something that needs to be taken at one’s own pace. If anything, I hope that my involvement in this whole cause can help others find their own voice.
If you have read this far, well, I would really like to hear how you feel. What do you think our efforts are all about?
February 20， 2016， about 500+ people gathered at Irvine city hall and marched for justice for Peter Liang.
[220,Peter Liang, Akai Gurley] 2/20/2016 philadelphia. Dr. Shine:
“We honestly and firmly believe that if justice is for Americans, then justice must be for officer Liang.”
“He was an officer on duty to protect the citizens, in the fear of his life, and the other gentlemen Mr. Gurley in fear of his life, a tragedy occurred. It was not an intentional crime. It was not something that he intentionally did. But he was made a victim.
The system has not treated him with adequate fair justice.
We call upon the justice in America to review, to re-examine, to take another look that Mr. Liang, that he receives the mercy that the court can offer him. He does not belong off of the force, he belongs on his post of duty, with his family.”
“So regrettable has the life of Mr Curley been taken, but
we cannot undo the event. but we do not have to perpetuate the event by finding this officer wrong and therefore punished for that. ”
“It was not a crime, it was a tragedy.
Let this man go free.”
Reverend Dr. Robert P. Shine, Sr. (AAMIA)
Dr. Shine is the Pastor and Founder of Berachah Baptist Church in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia, where he has been the Pastor for seventeen years. Dr. Shine is a very well respected, visible church and community leader throughout the Philadelphia area. He is the former President of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity and President of the Pennsylvania State Wide Coalition of Black Clergy. He is the chairman of the African American Association for Corporate Responsibility, (AAACR) and chairman and Charter member of the World Communications Charter School.
Dr. Shine is the former Chairman of the Board of Manna bible Institute. Dr. Shine is a member of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, (PAC), a member of the Board of the Campus Boulevard Corporation, (CBC); he’s a member of the Advisory Board of the Barrister’s Association of Philadelphia. He is also a member of the Philadelphia Association of Catholic Religious Investors, (PACRI). U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) appointed Dr. Shine as Congressional Black Caucus Chaplain and the National Association of Black State Legislators appointed him to head their Church and Clergy Division.
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