In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Black community is calling for a boycott of Missha Beauty after the owner Sung Ho Lim and another female employee were caught on cellphone video physically assaulting an unidentified female customer, who appears Black. Both Lim and the unidentified female employee appear to be Asian American.
The confrontation apparently began when store employees accused the unidentified customer of shoplifting. However, the customer is heard in unedited videotape footage immediately denying the charge, and inviting employees to check her purse. Less than a minute later, Lim and the other store employee again confronted the customer which devolved into a shoving match. Lim then escalated the confrontation by shoving the customer in the throat, kicking her multiple times, and eventually placing her in a chokehold — a potentially life-threatening maneuver — while the customer pleads for him to get off of her. Indeed, eyewitnesses say that the customer was gasping for air while Lim was on top of her. Reports The Root:
“When he was choking her, he was almost choking her to death. She was gasping for breath, and he was continually choking her,” Teresa Mosely, a customer who buys from Missha Beauty three times a week but says that she won’t continue doing so, told the news station.
July 6th 2016: At work, I check Facebook, my newsfeed is flooded with images of the gruesome murder of yet another member of the black community, Alton Sterling. Later that night, I stumble across the video of Philando Castile’s death. 2 black bodies stained with red blood in the span of 24 hours.
When these attacks happen, I can’t help but think of my black and brown family members and their safety so I made a few phone calls inquiring on the safety of my family. The safety of my disabled and vulnerable uncle, the safety of my visibly Muslim parents, brothers, and sister, and the safety of my cousins who are both black and Muslim. Two targeted identities in today’s world.
These phone calls are now a part of my daily routine. I can’t help but fear for my family members. I live in daily fear that we will be the next victims of targeted terrorist attacks or police brutality. While we, members of the black and brown community fear, the world…it remains silent.
Black lives matter. Full stop. Any discussion of police violence against American lives must begin and end with (and consist of) the experience of black and brown people in our country. If we are to end police brutality, that must be our main focus. It’s not for us to make metaphors, excuses, or pander to nonblack people. Black and brown people are being gunned down in the street, and our job as citizens must be to center on the issues; our activism must not center on our own guilt or our own lives but those of others.
This week, I attended a protest in New York City which started at Union Square, organized by NYC Shut It Down, “a multiethnic, multigenerational group of anti-heteropatriarchal activists who fight against militarized policing and racial injustice,” in their own words. “Don’t waste your time arguing with people who don’t believe in the cause,” a speaker had told us at the beginning of the night, “but mobilize your own people.” I paraphrase: words were swallowed in the crush of people, but I was deeply struck by this sentiment.
So this essay is for my people: the well-meaning Asian, white, and racially “other” liberals like me, liberals with our hearts and minds in the right place and our actions slow to catch up. It’s for us pandering, guilt-motivated people who cry watching yet another video of police brutality, post “Black Lives Matter” on facebook, and then go about our day, the pain of what we saw dissipating as the hours accumulate. It’s not for people who don’t care about black lives; it’s for those who do. If you don’t already believe in dismantling the system, in righting its institutional wrongs, you can feel free to look away now, to return to your life of ignorance; you are not my people.
After the killings of this past week, it feels on some level as if words have dried up. As though we have cried and screamed in outrage, for justice, for so long that we have nothing left to say. As if our words are no longer weapons, but lie useless and mute in our hands. As with physical illness, there is a numbness that comes after one has experienced so much pain that the brain and the body become overloaded, and can no longer process what is happening to them.
But this is a long road, one that many have walked before us, and we cannot give up and collapse by the side of the road now.
The Civil Rights Movement was a revolution in its time, and its heroes and martyrs achieved great things, but their work is still unfinished; it has become our work. We have a moral obligation to take on our long history of white supremacy: the violence perpetuated upon black and brown bodies without accountability; the erasure of the suffering and injustice faced by victims of police violence in favor of white people’s “fragility”; the inextricable way that gun violence and the gun lobby is interwoven with a mainstream culture that approves of arming white people and killing black people, and yet putting disproportionate numbers of black people in jail.