After the lack of indictment in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men killed by white police officers, students flocked to Kemper Auditorium in December to listen to Professor David Canton explain the events in the broader context of American history. In an insightful presentation on the lingering effects of slavery and institutional racism, Canton challenged his listeners to reject current black stereotypes and become better acquainted with the United States’s history of oppression. I was inspired, but as a Korean student, I still had one question: where did I fit into the conversation?
I believe that as a fellow minority group in America, Asian-Americans have an obligation to support the black community, particularly during these trying times. And yet, I didn’t see many other Asians speaking up or involving themselves; I feel that many Asians and Asian-Americans are raised within a culture of passivity that prefers to ignore conflict rather than face it head on. While Asians and Asian-Americans should not overshadow black voices in conversations about black oppression, they still have an important and supportive role to play.
Furthermore, I think Asians and Asian-Americans should take advantage of the way these issues have recently galvanized minority communities in America. This energy – our energy – can also be applied to a different discussion of the oppression that Asian and Asian-Americans face.
Last January, for example, Kang Chun Wong, an 84-year-old Asian man from New York, NY., was knocked to the ground by a group of New York City police officers attempting to arrest him for jaywalking. Wong struck his head on the pavement and fell unconscious. I vividly recall the swelling surge of indignation from looking through the photos accompanying the report. One depicts Wong sitting on the ground, handcuffed and bleeding profusely from his face.
I was looking forward to having a healthy discussion about the incident with my peers at Andover, but to my dismay, nobody wanted to. The incident received little attention on social media before the outrage fizzled, and everyone moved on. Asians had once again missed an opportunity to fight for their rights.
I believe Asians need to be more involved in the race discussion. Whether we are fighting for ourselves or supporting others, we can no longer ignore the larger issues of justice and fairness. I have come to realize that, as an Asian, I am a part of America’s race debate.
_Jessica Lee is a two-year Upper from Hong Kong and is a Layout Associate for _The Phillipian_._