Asian Americans show solidarity with Ferguson, Mo. after grand jury decision

Michael Brown. Courtesy of Parks & Crump Law Firm

Michael Brown. Courtesy of Parks & Crump Law Firm

Following the Nov. 24 grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Mo. for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, protests erupted nationwide calling for Wilson’s arrest and redress for the nation’s law enforcement agencies with regard to racial profiling and militarization. 

Multiple Asian Pacific Islander American organizations and individuals have expressed their solidarity with Ferguson’s African American communities and protesters. 

Wilson has since resigned from the Ferguson Police Department. 

The Japanese American Citizens League said in a Nov. 29 statement that the organization was deeply troubled by the grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson. “Though profoundly disturbing, the results of the grand jury are not entirely surprising, given a process that seemed wholly indifferent to securing an indictment, a legal system that rationalizes police brutality, and a society that continues to devalue black and brown lives,” the statement said.

Vincent Pan, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, wrote Nov. 25, that “it is imperative to validate the frustrations that millions of Americans across the country are experiencing at this moment. Sometimes anger is not only justified, it is morally required.”

Pan said the public should reflect on Brown’s death and the grand jury’s decision based on the context of racial discrimination and oppression in the United States. “Patterns of racial profiling, police violence, and the hyper-criminalization of communities of color have served to dehumanize African American boys and men since the inception of this country,” he wrote. “We should be outraged by Brown’s death and the grand jury decision not because they are aberrations but because they remain the norm.” Pan added that discrimination affects each community differently, but that those differences should serve as a catalyst for mutual understanding and inclusivity. Pan added that the Asian American community deals with their experiences being rendered “invisible, marginalized and dehumanized.”

The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium made a joint statement with its affiliates to express their outrage over the grand jury decision. “Like anyone who takes a life, Wilson should face open and fair accountability for fatally shooting Michael Brown. Without justice, there can be no peace,” the organization said. “We need a justice system that protects everyone and respects our universal humanity.”

South Asian Americans Leading Together also pledged its solidarity with Brown and his supporters in a Nov. 25 statement. “As a national civil rights organization working with communities targeted by hate violence, racial and religious profiling, and surveillance, we understand the damaging ramifications of mistrust between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect,” the statement said. “We will join with our allies to continue outlining the dangers of discriminatory policing. We also hope this troubling moment leads to meaningful engagement between law enforcement, policy makers, and communities so everyone in our country can one day feel safe from the fear of police discrimination and abuse in their own neighborhood.”

The organization also called on the Department of Justice to continue its investigation on Brown’s death and the Ferguson Police Department’s policies. “The importance of reforming the DOJ’s guidance on racial profiling has never been more urgent, and we continue to call on DOJ to swiftly reform the guidance to meaningfully protect all communities against law enforcement profiling,” SAALT said said.

Among other pan-Asian organizations, the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and Asian Americans Advancing Justice expressed their solidarity and issued calls for reform following the grand jury decision.

Gregory Cendana, chair of the NCAPA, expressed his organization’s sadness and outrage for the grand jury decision in a Nov. 24 statement. “What has happened in Ferguson is not an isolated incident. Racial suspicion of black and brown people, especially by law enforcement, has become an epidemic in many parts of our country. Every 28 hours, an African American is killed by law enforcement,” he said. Cendana argued that these policies also affect Latinos and Asian Americans who face racial profiling by law enforcement. “The movement in Ferguson and around the country in response to the killing of Michael Brown has sparked calls for police accountability and policies that will prohibit the militarization of police and racial profiling. We urgently call upon the White House, the Department of Justice and congressional leaders to review and address the ongoing pattern and practice of racial violence and systemic discriminatory treatment by law enforcement of our communities of color.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, in a joint statement by its five member organizations, attributed Brown’s death and grand jury decision to systemic failures. Advancing Justice urged the U.S. Department of Justice investigate Brown’s case further. “We will work with the African American and other impacted communities to hold our leaders accountable and to ensure the motto of ‘to serve and protect’ rings true for all of our communities,” the statement said.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations also called for “national action” to address issues of racism following the grand jury decision. “We question the problematic conduct of the 

prosecutor’s office in the grand juryprocess as demonstrated by showing unprecedented deference to the officer, a potential criminal defendant,” the statement said. “If any good is to come of this heartbreaking incident, it will be in the recognition that many Americans still feel the impact of institutional racism and that there is still much work to do to create a society in which people ‘will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’”

Among individuals, APIA Writers for Ferguson, an open letter signed by more than 400 Asian American writers and scholars, expressed the discrepancy of how a story is told and what is left untold in cases such as Brown’s death. “We are dissatisfied with an unjust system and dominant culture that continues to craft false narratives around our African American, Latino, and Native American brothers and sisters — similar to the construction of false narratives about Asian Americans,” the letter states. “The myth of the model minority, for example, has sought to pit us against each other, even though some of us have a long history of mutual support and collaboration across racial lines.”

Emil Guillermo, writing for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog, reflected on his own thoughts over Wilson’s words, Brown’s death, along with the deaths of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Stephen Guillermo, his own cousin who was shot to death May of this year. “Asian Americans aren’t immune to this feeling,” Guillermo wrote. “A senseless death goes unprosecuted. Black youth don’t count? Make that all people of color, Asian Americans included.” Guillermo pointed out Wilson’s testimony illustrated “how justice works in America.”

“I was taken by Wilson’s ‘confession’ to his police sergeant as he gets back to his squad car,” he wrote. “‘I had to kill him,’ Wilson said … Had to kill Michael Brown? After Brown ran away?” Guillermo said he wished the news reported the details of the grand jury transcripts rather than the riots that ensued.

— compiled by Tomo Hirai

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