Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, the scandals taking part in Ferguson these past couple of months have been on our minds, in our hearts, and about the only thing bombarding breaking news headlines. The recent grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown has “evenly divided” all Americans on the just or un-justness of a lingering problem this nation has held tightly onto since its infamous birth.
It’s a dire circumstance, for sure, a weighty subject to even think about– let alone speak about. Outrage, fury, and numerous violent protests have and are still spreading like wildfire all across the country. From Chicago to Washington D.C. and New York; from Los Angeles all the way back to where it all began– good old Missouri– students are walking out of classes; cars are plowing into large defenseless crowds; rallies are circling viciously around police headquarters; demonstrators are walking onto major highways bringing traffic to a halt in both directions. And this seems only to be the beginning.
All these happenings obviously have much to do with an unending slew of racial tensions that have gripped the United States for centuries (and centuries) too long. But what exactly does it have to do with the hundreds of other minority groups watching helplessly from the sidelines? The ones who can’t identify with either white or black. The millions of ‘some ethnicity hyphen Americans’ who seem to lose all relevance in high profile racialized cases like this one?
America has long been touted as the ‘land of the free’– the land of opportunity, liberty, equality, and justice for all. A country where difference is much more widely accepted than in others, a place seen as a melting pot of cultural ethniticies. Los Angeles, all on its own, is “the world in a city.” It’s a rich patchwork of ethnic enclaves that people from over 140 countries can call their home. From Little Toyko to Little Armenia; from the Fairfax district to Little Ethiopia; L.A. effortlessly brings limitless culture right to our very doorsteps. The San Gabriel Valley, which I’ve spent more than half of my life weaving in and out of, is an “ethnoburb” overfilled with Chinese residents. So where do these millions of minorities stand in relation to the “black and white palette” used to paint incidents like Ferguson? Which camp, specifically, can Asian-Americans (like myself) associate with?
According to a recent article by Jack Linshi in TIME Magazine, neither, really. As always, Asian-Americans are erased from public consioucness. We’re invisible and seem perpetually detached from the ongoing situation, even if our personal/professional lives have become quote-on-quote ‘collateral damage.’ Our concerns are swept swiftly under the rug and we are once again left alone to bite the dust. Well, first we must clean up the mess that’s been made, then bravely “reassess the unfolding reality outside.”
Linshi parallels Michael Brown’s death to numerous other injustices in Asian-American history– and he easily points out how none of these similarly brutal cases resulted in criminal charges, public campaigns in honor of the victim’s memory, or even the tiniest amount of social justice. Unlike Ferguson, Asian-American stories fail to capture the world’s attention, remaining comparatively unknown and quickly forgotten.
Take recent occurrences such as the senseless slaying of yet another Chinese graduate student at USC– only two years after an incident in 2012. Sure, his death made news (as did the two deaths that preceded his), but fervor and an intense call for action has since simmered down, leaving nothing but broken hearts and a scholarship fund set up in the deceased’s name.
How about the 2013 Jimmy Kimmel China controversy that resulted not only in bitter outrage, but a 105,000 signature-padded petition demanding action from the Obama administration? Nothing was done there as well. Both ABC and Jimmy Kimmel had already apologized for the on-air ‘joke’ and according to the White House, this nation was built on the principle of free speech, so there really is nothing else that can be done. Really? I’d hate to see what would happen if a similar wisecrack was made on behalf of another minority group…
So all this may just be me and my useless bantering– a young member of the doomed ‘model minority’ hoping to God that one day, some day, something, not nothing, will actually be done for all ethnicities, all minority groups– not just the ones that tend to stand out more distinctly than others. We’ve got to learn that in life, things are never simply white or black. There’s always a gray area, a middle ground that can slowly foster racial solidarity among all people experiencing the pains of sociopolitical marginalization.
Let’s just hope we can get to that place soon.