Why Are We Here Today?

Author: Chunyan Li

Why are we here?

We are here today because we are yellow. Yes that is right, despite advice saying the otherwise, I would like all of us to face the reality.

We are here because we are yellow. Just when we thought the Chinese Exclusions Act was long behind us, we had the government baselessly accuse Chinese American scientists such as Sherry Chen and Xiaoxing Xi as spies. We saw the Japanese interment looming when these innocent scientists were persecuted simply because they are yellow.

So we are here because we are yellow. Just when we thought the American Dream has no color, we are reminded of the term “a Chinaman’s chance” when we saw Peter Liang being convicted for something he has not committed. Assemblyman Colton called the prosecutor’s act of painting Peter Liang as an intentional killer “highly prejudicial and inflammatory.” Do we all agree? Even an African American young lady asked the question on YouTube, “why Liang, who didn’t even have the intent? Is it because he is a minority?” The contrast between the DA and this fair-minded lady can’t be overlooked. How sad, and how ironic!!!

Note some didn’t want us to use the race card, but let’s face the grim reality pointed out by this honest young lady.

We are here because we are yellow. We came to this country partly because of our belief in free speech, in the objective media, and in the fairness of the legal system. Yet we saw so often that TV hosts can condescendingly say, without consequence: “should we allow the Chinese to live?”, “Chinese are all hackers”, thus shamelessly blaming America’s ills on the yellow peril. We saw the half truths around Peter Liang when the media painted him as a heartless person the moment the tragedy occurred, and politicians calling for indictment even before facts were clear. We saw the justice system failed Vincent Chin when the murderers were fined only $3000 dollars, when the judge said “You don’t make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal. These weren’t the kind of men you sent to jail.” Now, does Liang’s conviction fit either the person or the “crime”? That is the question we should all ask.

Thus we are here because we are yellow. Now it takes great courage to face this sentence, typing it down. Because I want to believe the American Dream has no color. My son echoed Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech a little over 2 years ago in Time Square. Do I want him to know that, he not only has to work extra hard because of our “model minority” status, because of the “shy, nerd” stereotypes thrown at him by the media, but now, my deep belief in the justice system is shaken? Do I want him to know the term “a Chinaman’s chance”?

We are here because we are yellow. Shall I tell my kids? Now, many parents would advise me otherwise. They rightly want to shield their children’s innocent mind. But today, I no longer want to be the all protective parent, when I put myself into the shoes of Peter Liang’s mother, when I put myself into the shoes of the families caught in the tension between minority communities and police force. There is no winner in the Liang’s verdict. Will the society become safer after this? Will parents continue to encourage their children to become police officers? Especially Asian families? When is it a proper time to tell my kids?

We are here because we are yellow. It hurts me when I type these words, because how I wish minorities of color can face this reality that, unless we unite and fight for justice together, our dreams will forever be tainted by our skin tones. It is a sad moment for two minority communities, but it doesn’t have to be. I want to imagine, what If we all are like the African American lady on YouTube, to demand those truly are responsible to face the consequence? What if politicians and over zealous prosecutors had not used “political persecution”, rightly called by an article on Independent Sentinel, the two communities?

We are here because we are yellow. During the Civil Rights movement, Asian Americans marched together with Dr. Martin Luther King. Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese American, fought decades for equal rights of the African American community that the government thought she was African American. So why Liang? Is it because the yellow color is seen as perpetual foreigner, an easy target? As law Professor Frank Wu pointed out: “how strange, and how wrong, it is, that the face picked to represent police brutality toward African Americans is Yellow.”

But we are not here solely because we are yellow. We are here because we still have hope, that communities of color can join force to demand true accountability, to demand equal treatment, to eradicate racial profiling, and in the end, to achieve the American Dream.

3 Replies to “Why Are We Here Today?”

  1. Chinese Americans have been brought up viewing harmony and perseverance as virtues. We need to place fighting for one’s rights ahead of these traits, as other minority groups have done very effectively. Speak up and speak out your beliefs and don’t worry what others think.

    Chinese Americans need to have recognized, articulate leaders, who serve as spokespersons for the Chinese American community. For example, Reverend Jessie Jackson is such a person for the Afro-American community. Without well-known, de-facto spokespersons, media and authorities have no credible contacts to interview and fetch demands when events such as injustice of Peter Liang’s occurs.

    Chinese Americans will never have true political clout until we elect Chinese American officials into high offices. Instead of guiding our kids to safe and lucrative industries such as medicine, science, engineering and finance, we should place more weight on law and political science, and encourage our children to enter politics.

    Chinese Americans need to get more involved in non-Chinese social and charitable services, and not simply form local Chinese clubs that take care of its own members. We need to demonstrate to rest of the country we’re willing to sacrifice our time and energy to help with greater societal needs.

    Before we can expect support from rest of country, Chinese Americans need to show support for all groups that are suffering from discrimination. This means Afro-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Muslims, LGBT, and others.

    Most importantly, Chinese Americans must show more unity and speak with one voice when it comes to issues that affect our community. Helping Peter Liang get a fair trial has been such an galvanizing event, and we must continue to have our voices heard! Injustice to one is injustice to us all!

  2. 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 Negro 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 president 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

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