Sunday marked the two week anniversary of the death of George Floyd. Over these past two weeks, I woke up to the reality that I’m one of the oppressors.
The first time I remember civic participation in my family was in 2016 following the “guilty” verdict of Peter Liang. Liang, who was an NYPD cop, was convicted for manslaughter after he shot a stray bullet that ricocheted and killed a 2-year old black girl.
My mom took my little brother and me downtown to the Texas State Capitol to protest for Peter Liang’s acquittal. NBC quotes the Chinese-American community’s complaint that “Liang were white, he wouldn’t have been found guilty…They bully Chinese. It’s discrimination.”
Protesting at the Texas Capitol “Justice for Peter Liang” – Austin, TX – Feb 20, 2016
Four years later, with the killing of George Floyd, the Asian community awoke again with cries for justice. But this time, it was for the Black victim and not the officer. As I saw an Asian police officer who looked like me ignore Floyd’s pleas for help as he was choked by another officer, I saw my own complicity in racial oppression. I realized that merely because there is discrimination against us doesn’t justify us contributing to the discrimination against others.
In the case of Liang, even though we may not have gotten acquitted like our white counterparts, we were still able to argue from a position of power – we were still alive. The girl who was shot was dead.
We live in a cultural social hierarchy, with blacks and latinos on the bottom, then Asians in the middle, and finally whites on top. However, as Asians, we shouldn’t pride ourselves in our high place in the pecking order, and neither should we climb over others to the top.
Rather, scripture tells of a kingdom where every tribe and language and people and nation will worship God, who ransomed us all. He created us all in his own image, and through Jesus Christ, he sees us all as his children.
“Imago Dei” – Latin for “Image of God” – on my campus ministry, Epic Movement’s, Spring 2020 T-Shirt
If there is supposed to be any hierarchy, it would be between a perfect God, and the imperfect, broken, sinful us. However, God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to die and close the chasm between us and Him, and we are now guaranteed the same inheritance that Christ has – God’s eternal kingdom.
I realized that just as Jesus leveled the ground between me and God, we should aim to level the ground amongst each other. Now that the Asian American community has turned its cry for justice from the accused cop to the killed black, we’ve fought for both sides in the racial tensions between whites and blacks. We should leverage our unique place at these crossroads to spark dialogue, seeing it as an opportunity to engage both.
In the case of Peter Liang, NPR describes Asian Americans positioned in the racial hierarchy as “both victims and also protected from some of the harshest types of racial discrimination.” This position uniquely offers us perspective of both the oppressors and the victims. So I’m praying that we bring these two worlds of perspective together on modern-day silk roads paved by both tragedies and privileges. Hopefully we’ll have some good conversations on the way.
- Pray for guidance for the Asian American community as we grapple with our position and privilege. Pray that we see the truth that titles on earth are nothing in God’s eyes, but that He offers the same love and grace regardless of race. Pray for us to see others the way that God sees us.
- Pray for the courage for different groups to engage in conversations together. Pray that the Holy Spirit works through these conversations to break down preconceived barriers and for us to know each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.