New Asian Leaders
February 20, 2016
"March for Equal Justice" Cliff Zhonggang Li, Executive Director
910 17th Street NW 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20006
Media Contact: Dr. Larry H. Shinagawa
T: 954-233-0672 x 527
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, our true hero, delivered his famous speech “I have a dream” right here on the steps of Lincoln Memorial. We now live in a time when there tends to no longer be overt systematic discrimination against Asian Americans and other racial groups. However, bias, prejudice and stereotype still haunt us as well as our children this very day. The March toward social justice and equality is still on. From the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act to the experiences of Wenho Li, Sherry Chen, Xiaoxing Xi, and Peter Liang today, we see the shadow of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act still looming above us. We also see the glass ceiling or bamboo ceiling hanging over our head when we work hard to reach high. Asian Americans like former Officer Peter Liang are treated unfairly, unequally because of our perceived weak political status that does not impart regard and voice to our concerns. All too often, we are put at the bottom of people's priorities, considerations, or deliberations.
We are deeply saddened by the death of Mr. Akai Gurley. As a father of two, I can’t imagine his children living without him. It is certainly a tragedy involving two victims, an African American who lost his life, and an Asian Officer who just lost his career and possibly his freedom. Yes, the bullet from Peter Liang’s handgun hit Mr Gurley accidentally. But why NYPD sent two rookie officers to one of the most dangerous places, they have to make split second decision in the pitch darkness. When we reviewed at the police shooting incidents nationwide, specifically in New York City, we found 179 NYPD police-involved killings since 1999. Only three indictments were made, with only one conviction. Now Peter Liang, an Asian American, a second year probationary NYPD officer, is the second convicted officer as a result of accidental discharge in line of duty. Does this result make you think: is the law fairly applied to Liang’s case? Why didn’t the NYPD make the same kind of effort protecting Peter Liang as they protect other officers so rigorously? Well, is it because there is too much racial tension going on recently like Ferguson incidence and lots of questions on police brutality, so those in power need a scapegoat? and they believe that they could prosecute Peter Liang without major repercussions because the Asian American community is considered 'weak' and 'fragmented' like a pan of sand.
A local Asian resident there heard the verdict and said this: "We don't dare tell our kids to become police officers any more. It's so scary." It shatters our dream to participate in the public services; it shatters our American Dream as new immigrants; it shatters American dreams everywhere what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was longing for. We can't let this be the legacy for our future generations! We call upon Asian Americans to have our collective voices heard. We should actively participate in protest parades, meetings, and forums in a civil manner, and reach out to various stakeholders of our larger community.
We call upon our community to rethink our responsibility as citizens of this great nation. Join the political process, vote and hold elected officials accountable, shatter the image of Asian Americans as a silent passive community, and build the leadership foundations for a brighter future for our children. Finally, we demand real transparency instead of bureaucratic shuffling and spins about how Peter Liang was picked for prosecution and insist upon fair and equal treatment of all suspects and officers by the NYPD. We also call upon our society working together to deal with poverty in this country. We still have so many places like this green project building 50 years after Martin Luther King’s civil right movement. The poverty kills every single day, which is the root cause of this tragic accident.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Let’s all march together, everybody in this greatest nation on the earth, cross that Selma Bridge, declaring the war against deeply rooted bias, prejudice and poverty. Together, we will prevail!