There isn’t a shred of doubt that Liang fired his gun in a darkened Brooklyn stairwell while conducting an unwarranted public housing patrol just to look for suspicious activity (a common activity for the NYPD and a horrifying way for them to use their time in a city riddled with actual, in-progress crimes). There is no doubt that after he fired his weapon, the bullet ricocheted and hit Gurley, an unarmed African-American man, who was just trying to get into his apartment.
However, what differs greatly is the legal action taken against this Asian-American cop and the legal action taken in the majority of cases in which white cops fatally shot (or choked) unarmed African-American men.
Does this mean that the outrage that this conviction ignited in the Asian-American community is justified?
The fact of the matter is, by protesting the conviction of a cop that used excessive force (why would he have his gun out and his finger on the trigger when he’s just being “proactive,” not responding to a call that would warrant a gun to be out and ready?), Asian-Americans are inadvertently demanding the same unjust white privilege that so many people have been fighting to stop.
Even more disheartening is the fact that people are making this about the wrong person. By giving into the racist rhetoric surrounding cases like this, these protestors are giving yet another prime example as to why the Black Lives Matter movement is not only necessary but essential for steering the conversation in the right direction. Why has the conversation moved so swiftly from the victim and the just verdict that was given to his killer and how he isn’t being treated the same as his white co-workers?
Steph Yin, a journalist writing for The Huffington Post, explained her position as an Asian-American and her family’s contradictory position:
“I asked my dad to imagine that Akai Gurley were his son, killed for nothing more than trying to enter an apartment. He immediately responded, without stopping to actually consider my question, ‘but imagine if Peter Liang were your son.’ That he was willing to consider Liang but not Gurley as his son is indicative of a broader trend I see among many (East) Asian Americans. They are angry when they see injustice against people who look like them, but not when they see injustice against Black, Latinx, and Muslim/ South Asian communities. Other people of color are dehumanized to them. Even when the injustice is stacked a human life versus a possible 15 years in prison.”
As Sam Braverman of the Daily News points out, “What part race and economics played in the trial is hard to know. The deceased was African-American, the officer was Chinese, the jury was racially mixed, the City and the country continue to work through issues of race and law enforcement and have reached no conclusions.”
This is undoubtedly a complex race issue filled to the brim with intersectionality, but no one seems to be approaching it in the way that makes the most sense. Protestors should be pointing to this case and shouting that this is the right way to treat killer cops, never letting go of the irregularities of past cases that haven’t even made it to court.
But no one should be demanding that Liang receive the same grotesque and blatant privilege that seasoned killer cops have enjoyed in the past—that’s giving into a system of oppression that so many have fought tooth and nail against, that many have died at the hands of.
Liang does not deserve the same privilege; all killer cops should be treated like him.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters