I first became aware of Minnesota’s outlier status when I lived there between 2002 and 2006. The Twin Cities are vibrant havens for Native American life. Black heterogeneity invites East Africans and African Americans to commune and code-switch across their differences. The infamous anti-communism among Southeast Asians is absent; refugees of the Vietnam War vote for and run for office as Democrats. Minnesota was the lone dissenting voice to back Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, when Ronald Reagan was swept into the White House following ballot box victories across America’s other 49 states.. Throughout much of America’s history, Minnesota has stood valiantly, if understatedly, in opposition to much of the rest of the country.
I lived in St. Paul, a half block away from either the right or the wrong side of a gentrification line, depending on how one sees it. Three buildings away, a poorly maintained apartment complex crumbled from neglect by its slumlord owner. An equal distance in the opposite direction stood a house that debuted the market with an asking price of over half a million. Just north, one might find an overpass for Interstate 94, which runs through the bowels of the old Rondo neighborhood. Every year, the predominantly African American former residents of Rondo host a festival to remember their beloved space, and to lament its destruction in the 1960s to make way for an increasingly automobile-centered society. Many of them were (and still are) reliant on public transport, yet they lost their homes to make way for our cars. In this and other aspects, Minnesota is typical—its inequities are congruent with those of the country at large.
On July 6, Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled Philando Castile over during a traffic stop just five miles away from Rondo, in the nearby suburb of Falcon Heights. He had a broken taillight. When Castile reached to present his ID, Yanez panicked and fired five shots into his body in front of his panicked girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter. Castile died shortly thereafter in hospital.
The fact that Castile was African American is significant. Numerous studies, historic narratives and contemporary accounts testify to the existence of police aggression targeted at black people — an unbroken thread stretching from slavery to emancipation to the present day. That Yanez—whom Castile’s companion described as “Chinese” in the video she live-streamed of his killing—is phenotypically Asian is also significant. Days after Castile’s death, Yanez’s name and race – he is Latinx – were revealed to the public. Nonetheless, the questions surrounding race and solidarity between Black and non-Black people of color as raised by Philando Castile’s fatal shooting and its aftermath need some parsing.
By Guest Contributors: Pao Lee Vue, Bee Vang, and Louisa Schein
Last March, Wausau resident Dylan Yang, 16 – who is Hmong American – was found guilty of “first-degree reckless homicide” for stabbing Isaiah Powell, a black Latino boy, then 13, in an altercation that happened in 2015. The case has raised a litany of issues that beg questions of how ongoing racial dynamics impact the Wisconsin justice system. Why might it matter that an overwhelmingly white collection of authorities – from teachers to school administrators, from counselors to cops, from jurors to judges – managed this case involving the death of a black Latino teen at the hands of a Hmong teen? What lies ahead for Dylan who now faces up to 60 years in prison? What is being done to diminish the uneven implementation of the law exemplified by this case?
As the year winds down to a close, these are the top ten political stories that had a major impact on the AANHPI community highlighting the many political issues that have defined the AANHPI community this year. Sadly, many didn’t receive much mainstream media coverage.
How many of these stories were you following this year?
We would like to believe that America’s rising nativism is the work of Rightwing extremists. We would like to imagine that middle-of-the-aisle Democrats and Republicans will do their part to push back against the irrational villanization of the Muslim and Muslim American community. But, we learned this week that our elected representatives are, in some ways, worse than the most outspoken of Trump’s supporters. Whereas Trump’s intolerance is all talk, our political leaders recently used the power of their political office to write Islamophobia into law.
After over a month of build-up, a “National Day of Protest” that organizers said would involve coordinated rallies opposing the indictment of NYPD rookie police officer Peter Liang occurred last Sunday. Officer Liang was indicted earlier this year by a grand jury on manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges after he fatally shot unarmed civilian Akai Gurley in a darkened stairwell during an unsanctioned vertical patrol late last year.
Last month, thousands of Chinese Americans took to the streets to oppose Liang’s indictment, claiming that the criminal charges against Liang were unfair, and a form of “racial scapegoating”. However, many other Asian Americans (including myself) support Officer Liang’s indictment as a necessary outcome if we are to expect greater police accountability and an end to racial profiling and police brutality. Last week, the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) organized an open letter of support for Officer Liang’s indictment and solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement; over 50 AAPI organizations (including this blog) and more than 200 AAPI individuals — including several community leaders — signed on.
Over the weekend, anti-indictment protesters were scheduled to rally in cities ranging from New York to Los Angeles. In the wake of the growing coverage of incidents of police brutality — including the recent shooting death of unarmed civilian Walter Scott which resulted in criminal charges for the police officer in charge — I was curious to see what impact these recent events might have on Liang’s supporters, whose rhetoric appeared to hinge largely on the assertion that police officers should have the unmitigated right to shoot unarmed Black men and women without consequence.