A protester holds up a sign that says "Hmong 4 Black Lives". (Photo credit: Melody Vaaj via BBC)
By Guest Contributor: Kong Pheng Pha
Conversations have proliferated on social media debating Hmong Americans’ position in the ongoing racial conflicts in the U.S. The murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, one of them a Hmong American, warrants a reflection on the place of Hmong Americans in the revolution.
A New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise attempted to examine the position of Hmong Americans in the murder of George Floyd. The article tried to present a balanced view of where Hmong Americans are situated in this ongoing revolution without fully putting Hmong Americans on either “side” of the conflict. However, this concerted effort to present ‘two sides’ fails to reflect where many Hmong Americans are: we want police to be held accountable for Floyd’s murder as much as any other community who possess any sense of equality and justice.
A security guard who shot 60-year old Jiansheng Chen in Chesapeake, Virginia last month now faces second-degree murder charges, and the security company he worked for has been fired by the Homeowner’s Association at the complex where Chen was killed.
Chen was reportedly playing “Pokemon Go” — an enhanced reality game wherein users visit local landmarks to collect pokemon and send them into battle — on the evening of January 26th when he pulled into the driveway of the clubhouse at the Riverwalk community complex less than a mile from his house. While parked in his minivan, Chen — whom family say had started playing the mobile app to better relate with his grandkids — was confronted by a vehicle driven by security guard 21-year-old Johnathan Cromwell of Virginia Beach that pulled up in front of him to block him. Chen then backed his minivan out of the Riverwalk clubhouse driveway and turned to face the street, apparently preparing to leave. That’s when Cromwell reportedly got out of his car and fired several shots from a handgun, hitting Chen five times, including four times in the chest.
Chen, who was 60 years old and unarmed, died on the scene.
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?
But where do Asian Americans — who are both people of colour yet who endure a completely different set of racial stereotypes in America than do other minorities — fall on questions of police brutality?