Unprotected by Assimilation: Lessons from the Case of Duy Ngo

Police officers arrive to the funeral of New York Police Department Officer Wenjian Liu at Aievoli Funeral Home, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Photo credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Police officers arrive to the funeral of New York Police Department Officer Wenjian Liu at Aievoli Funeral Home, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (Photo credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo)

By Guest Contributor: Bao Phi

When I began reading that a White House petition had collected 100,000 signatures — many of them reportedly Chinese names — in defense of Peter Liang, a cop who shot and killed an unarmed Black man during a patrol of a housing project in New York, I was perplexed.  At a time when the horrible abuse and killing of nonwhite bodies, predominantly Black, was making the news every week, why were so many Asian people defending an officer who wrongfully killed a Black man?  And where were these 100,000 people during the wrongful death lawsuit by the family of slain Hmong teenager Fong Lee, killed by a white officer (awarded a Medal of Valor for the killing) with a history of abuse against Black and Hmong people?

But I took a step back, and read about some of the Chinese people who were in support of Liang.  Some of them felt he was scapegoated.  Some claimed the Liang case was about political maneuvering.  Some said they were tired of being pushed around.   What was going on here?  How was the information on this case being broadcast in non-English media?  It’s hard to get more than 100,000 Asians in America to sign onto anything — who got them to sign on to support this officer?

To some, it all may seem cut and dried.  Asians are just being selfish and anti-Black again, only coming out of their wannabe white lifestyles to support one of their own.  But then what about the cases where Asians have been the victims of police violence that don’t draw anywhere near the same zeitgeist?  How do those instances of racist violence against Asians, statistically not as frequent but still racist, fit into our understanding of state sanctioned violence against Asian bodies?

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