Monday, February 22, 2016

The enemy is white supremacy: on Peter Liang's manslaughter conviction

This week my mother has been following protests following Peter Liang's conviction in the shooting death of Akai Gurley. Never one for following current events with more attention than the evening newscast, she did not distinguish between injustice against one race group and injustice against all oppressed groups. To her, the protest against the jury's verdict (and indeed, the initial indictment) was a protest against racism in general.

I am proud that Peter Liang was convicted. He will serve time in the prison system alongside millions of black and Latino men including former police. The white supremacy of America's criminal justice institution has earned the attention of Asian- and Pacific Islander-Americans, like my mom, for the first time on this scale.* This is an opportunity to demand, alongside black Americans, the end of white privilege, not to demand that Liang be accorded white privilege alongside white police officers.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, "Enduring suffering in love and awareness can erase the bitter hatred of a thousand lifetimes." There is no one or group of people to hate here: the unjust conditions including white supremacy, post-slavery poverty (leading to the unsafe and unlit state of Gurley's residence), police favoritism in criminal courts, unwholesome NYPD culture contributed to Gurley's death and Liang's mistakes. They contributed to the unjust killings and serial non-indictments of so many cases galvanizing Black Lives Matter. Let every one of us suffering under these unnecessary and destructive conditions be aware of Gurley's family's suffering and of Liang's suffering alongside our own.

Can we be aware of not only loud suffering but the years and generations of quiet suffering? And can we hold our suffering in community with love and confidence that what people have created, people can and must dismantle? More and more white people are learning about and preparing to give up their privilege. What privilege are you ready to recognize in your place in society, and are you ready to give it up?

Not being black is a privilege in America. Not being immigrant, especially recognizably so, is a privilege in America. Are you ready to give up those privileges to relieve the suffering of others, and ultimately your own? This is the conversation and the practice we deserve to be sharing with each other as people of color.

* Interesting reading about the history of non-solidarity among Asians in America.