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?
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has built his political platform on intolerance, Islamophobia, and nativism, but (at least for the moment) we can take heart that it’s mostly bluster. Sure, more than 40% of his supporters would support Japanese American incarceration, and one-third apparently want to bomb Agrabah — the fictional city that Disney’s Aladdin called home — into oblivion. But, as amusing as this national poll’s findings are, we’re still dealing in the realm of hatespeech. Trump may want to limit Muslim and Muslim American travel, but it remains (for the time being) all talk.
In truth, Trump is a distraction from the far more terrifying hatred that has taken hold of this nation. Since 2001, anti-Muslim hate crimes — which victimizes both Muslims and those whom racists mistake as Muslims — have risen 1600%. Since the San Bernardino shooting, those already high rates of hate crimes have further skyrocketed to even more alarming levels: there have been over 40 anti-Muslim bias incidents recorded in America in the last month alone.
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.
Last week, I posted about a mind-numbingly horrible segment aired by Fox News’ Cashin’ In regarding anti-Muslim profiling. In it, hedge fund manager Jonathan Hoenig made the following commentary:
This was commentary that could only be interpreted as full-throated support for Japanese American internment and the murder of thousands of Japanese civilians when executed in the pursuit of American military victory; Hoenig rationalizes therefore that anti-Muslim profiling is similarly justified (video of full original segment after the jump). Hoenig’s logic is so unspeakably flawed and immoral as to demand an accounting.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!