On frustration

Warning: This post is long, has only one picture, and meanders a little bit.

I am a political person. Political science was one of my majors in college; I follow U.S. politics closely; I discuss it with my friends and parents.

I have very strong opinions about politics. I am a liberal Democrat who believes that something must be done about climate change, that women should have autonomy over their health and body, that the LGBTQ community deserves the same treatment and respect that heterosexual people receive, that gun control is something that needs to be addressed and made stricter, that campaign finance is out of control.

I started this blog  with the intention for it to be lighthearted and to show my strong opinions on food (trust me, I have them). But sometimes, the politics need to come out.

I went to see Allegiance on Broadway a few weeks ago with APALSA. It was a moving and profound show, and it brought up a great deal of feelings and thoughts.

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Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there was a legitimate national security threat that necessitated the rounding up of American citizens who could maybe possibly potentially have at least an inkling of affection for a nation belonging to the Axis Powers. With this hypothetical, one could argue that the internment of Japanese Americans was justified. However, it was only Japanese Americans. No German Americans, no Italian Americans. Here is where my History major side kicks in: there were three nations in the Axis Powers. Those nations were Germany, Italy, and Japan.

If FDR’s executive order had included Americans of German, Italian, and Japanese descent, the order would still carry constitutional questions (restricting the movements and suspending the liberties of millions of Americans without due process and high risk of error). But the limiting of the order to only one group adds the layer of racial discrimination on top the already-abhorrent base.

That is the basis of Asian American frustration: inequality.

The big news now in the Asian American community (or at least the “Asian Americans in New York” community) is the case of Peter Liang. His conviction has spurred frustration among Asian Americans that he is merely an NYPD scapegoat — and that he was the scapegoat because he is of Asian descent.

For me, there is no question that Mr. Liang did something wrong. Someone lost his life because of Mr. Liang’s actions. But I also believe that it was an accident borne out of recklessness. In conclusion, I believe that Mr. Liang was guilty of manslaughter. I do not have qualms with his conviction. What I do have qualms with is the track record.

There have been protests, petitions, deaths, and debates about police action. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have brought to the fore truths and realities that the African American community have known for a while. In the case of Eric Garner, it was shown graphically since the whole ordeal was caught on camera.

The whole ordeal was caught on camera. That means that we, as viewers, know the victim, the relevant officers, the actions, the context, and the outcome. We, as viewers, know that a police officer blatantly and unequivocally violated the police code in employing a chokehold. We, as viewers, know that Mr. Garner expressed repeatedly his inability to breathe, which was directly caused by the officer. We, as viewers, know the context and causation of the death of Eric Garner. And yet, none of the involved officers were charged with a crime. Not even manslaughter.

That is the qualm I have. I do not believe that Mr. Liang was convicted in a kangaroo trial, or that he was convicted because of his race or ethnicity, or that he was framed. I believe he is guilty of manslaughter. But I take great issue with the apparent double standard in going after “bad cops.” Why is it that an officer who shot a ricocheting bullet in a dark stairwell more guilty than an officer who, in broad daylight, used prohibited police tactics that can lead to asphyxiation, if both actions result in civilian deaths?

The answer to this frustration is not to free Mr. Liang, or to declare him not guilty. The answer is equality. Go after a reckless officer, by all means. But also go after the officers who are clearly wrong.

There is also a problem in the lack of discussion about Asian American issues. For example, took days for new outlets to pick up the story about the modern-day justification of internment camps (in order to justify denying entry to Syrian refugees). To put it bluntly: the political romanticization of an unconstitutional act did not merit immediate public attention. But a poorly-written blog post about another (admittedly centuries-longer) shameful chapter in U.S. history inspired numerous think-pieces.

This isn’t a competition of “which is worse.” There shouldn’t be a competition. But there should be discussion. The experiences of people of color in America need not be mutually exclusive; one does not need to be more odious or more torturous or more lengthy than another to merit attention.

Similarly, there shouldn’t be a calculus of “who is the easiest punching bag?” It is a calculus that has played out in society for centuries, and the answer has often landed on people of color. As such, people of color have a duty to speak out against it. Asian Americans, as the stereotypically quiet population, must speak out, loudly and forcefully, both for ourselves and for other groups.

I aim to do that. I have never been shy in sharing my views — about anything — to my friends and family. And I shouldn’t do that with you, my readers, either. If I can give you goofy pictures of me salivating over pie, than I can give you my opinionated side too. Too long have I been silent in the face of racial ignorance. This will be my way of making up for when I didn’t get up and leave when the person I dated insinuated that he knew English better than I did (spoiler: he didn’t, because he believes that “eloquent” and “elegant” are synonyms); or that time I laughed when a classmate asked if I had SARS merely because it was sweeping China at the time.

Today’s post was about my frustration regarding Asian American issues, but I intend on adding posts in the future about this issue and others, as they come.

If we have the audacity to demand multicultural culinary representation in our neighborhoods and palates, then we must also have multicultural perspective representation.

So let’s start. Let’s talk.

 


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