Ferguson topic of Asian-American talk

Updated: 2014-12-11 12:59

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Are there lessons for the Chinese and Asian-American communities from the Eric Garner and Michael Brown Jr. incidents in which confrontations between the two black men and police left both mendead and resulted in no legal charges against the police?

A panel will explore that topic Thursday at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York City. Moderated by New York Times journalist Sewell Chan, the panel also will examine how different communities have been affected. Panel members Chhaya Chhoum, Kevin Park, Neriel David Ponce, and Sahra Vang Nguyen will also look at race and racism, the justice system and social justice.

A Missouri grand jury recently declined to indict a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August after the police officer questioned him about stolen cigars from a neighborhood store. A grand jury in Staten Island, New York, declined to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo after he and other officers subdued Garner last summer with a chokehold. Garner died and a medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide. He was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes.

"This is first and foremost a community forum, so audience voice is equally critical as the panelists," said Beatrice Chen, MOCA's director of public programs. "We intentionally made sure that there are college-age/20-something activists included in the panel because we are currently experiencing a generational shift in activism and a contextual change in the dialog around race and racism. At MOCA we want to begin to reframe the conversation. Even as our work at the museum is about looking back, we want to make sure that when we're looking back, we're also looking forward."

Vang Nguyen is a writer and multimedia producer and a contributor to NBC News and the Huffington Post. She said the Brown and Garner cases have consequences beyond racial boundaries.

"The Garner and Brown cases have implications for everyone living in the United States, including Asian Americans, because it is a reflection of the blatant racism and lack of accountability in our justice system. If we allow the system to persist in this racist pattern, we are all at risk of losing our rights and power to protect ourselves and community under United States law," she said in an e-mail.

As to a perception that Asian Americans seem to have a better relationship with the police than other minorities, Vang Nguyen said that "definitely isn't true. Asian Americans continue to be victims of police brutality every day, even if it isn't broadcasted in the media. Fong Lee was a 19-year-old Hmong American who was murdered in 2006, shot eight times by a (Minneapolis) police officer who was eventually cleared (a jury ruled that the officer did not use excessive force when he shot Lee). Earlier this year, NYPD cops beat an 84-year-old Chinese man bloody for jaywalking."

She said everyone has a duty to be more vocal about social injustice. "Asian Americans are already very vocal about social injustice since Asian Americans have been oppressed from the moment they were invited to the US as cheap, exploitative labor in the 1800s. If you're someone who thinks that Asian Americans are not vocal about social injustice, then you're not listening close enough and not checking enough media sources, because the community has been very active for generations."

MOCA's Chen expects activism to be an engaging topic for the audience and panel members. "Who decides who has the right to protest? One of our interns was going to the protest with his peers and they were questioned why 'you people' were out here and because 'you're Asian.' How do we articulate our reasons why we're out protesting to not only just to the Asian community but to everyone else?" she said in an e-mail.

Let's Talk About Ferguson and Asian America will be held at MOCA, 215 Centre Street at 7 pm.