As a Chinese American, other race relations were never really on my radar; I was preoccupied with being the daily recipient of rude questions about ancestral origins and catcalls in the form of Japanese greetings. There was also the moment where Asian cultural appropriation came into the public eye, with Katy Perry’s weird Chinese-Japanese mashup of “Unconditionally” at the 2013 AMAs. In films, there were always the stereotyped Asians who existed solely for comic relief: Sixteen Candles’ Long Duk Dong, Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mr. Yunioshi… the list goes on. Our men are emasculated, our women sexualized; I felt like I was dealing with enough injustice on my own.
However, being in England for these past few months has opened my eyes, and given me a more complete view of the race narrative in America. Tamir Rice of Cleveland, a boy 2 years younger than my 14-year-old sister, shot for holding a pellet gun. Eric Garner of Staten Island, a man choked to death for no good reason. Mike Brown of Ferguson, whose side of the story doesn’t even get to be told. All of these people had family, friends, dreams and aspirations, and yet are dehumanized and get absolutely no justice. It makes no sense to me. In the cases of white gunmen who commit mass shootings at universities, there usually is somewhat of a narrative, or a set of reasons that have led the individual to commit such a heinous crime. But when the person in question is black, even if they have done nothing wrong, the colour of their skin makes them automatically suspect.
For a couple of the cases there are conflicting accounts, but the one that especially baffles me is Eric Garner’s. In the video, Garner is not putting up a fight, and you can repeatedly see and hear him saying, “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe…”. The chokehold is an illegal manoeuvre, the medical examiner’s office declared it a homicide, and they arrest the guy who filmed the video. This is absolutely a social issue in that police need to be educated properly, a political issue in that there needs to be stricter regulations and monitoring of police, but first and foremost, it is a human issue.
Obama has proposed more federal spending on police cameras, which I think will be a step forward. However, people are skeptical of how much it will do, and if it will trickle down to places like Ferguson, Missouri, or truly prompt perceptual change. The camera did nothing for Eric Garner. But aside from that and more vaguely worded speeches about patience and hope, our president has done nothing.
But on a more cheerful note, seeing the mass number of die-ins and protests in solidarity with those who have been hurt by racial injustice gives me hope. The only way to move towards positive social change is get mad, get out, and get loud. All of these things have been happening more frequently, in Hong Kong, Ferguson, New York, London… it’s amazing to see people mobilizing for the issues that they care about, whether that be climate change or racial injustice and police brutality. Anger is an agent for change. So to quote Howard Beale from The Network:
“We don’t go out anymore. And slowly the world we’re sitting in is getting smaller and all we say is, ‘Please, please leave us alone in our living rooms… and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well I’m not gonna leave you alone… I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!””
You can find more details & RSVP here: http://on.fb.me/1Ip8JSx
*For a better understanding of American race relations, you can also take a scroll through the #CrimingWhileWhite and #AliveWhileBlack hashtags on Twitter.