A Message From the Columbia APALSA Board:
Dear APALSA Community,
These have been a rough few weeks. The non-indictments of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner have shone a painful spotlight on what we have long known: the law does not treat all people equally and the system is grievously flawed. They have also filled us with questions about our own roles as future lawyers in a broken system and as Asian Americans in an unequal society.
We don’t pretend to have all of the answers. Instead, we offer this message of unity, support, and purpose that we hope will help us chart our individual and collective responses.
First, APALSA stands in solidarity with all communities of color against police brutality and racism.
The needless deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many other Black individuals have affected us all. But even as we watch the news coverage, some of us wonder how—and if—we should express our anger and dismay in a society that defines race-relations along a white-and-black paradigm. The answer is simple. Speak up because that’s the human thing to do.
Viewed as outsiders and “perpetual foreigners,” Asian Americans are often excluded from the dialogue. But a quick look at our history shows us that Asian Americans have a critical role in race relations in this country. There are several articles that have been written in light of recent events that highlight their importance to the Asian American community (for example, see Jack Linshi’s piece in Time and Liz Lin on the Salt Collective).
Only we can fight back and make our voices heard. In the aftermath of the non-indictments, APALSA stands by our fellow students, friends, and neighbors in saying unequivocally that Black lives matter. The alternative, silence, is unacceptable. Congressman Mike Honda, a survivor of the Japanese American internment camps, once said, “The reason we were sent to camp is because no one in Washington said no.” APALSA joins the larger AAPI community (see AAAJ-AAJC, CAPAC, NAKASEC, and OCA) in saying no to these blatant miscarriages of justice and the lack of accountability for police killings.
Second, we must advocate for those in our own community who have been abused and discriminated against by the police.
Asian American communities have also struggled with systematic discrimination and the excessive use of police force. South Asians, Muslims, and Sikhs have been profiled and targeted following 9/11. Asian Americans killed by the police include Kuan Chung Kao, killed in 1997 on his own driveway for waving a stick in a “martial arts manner;” Cau Bich Tran, killed in 2003 when police allegedly mistook her vegetable peeler for a cleaver; and Fong Lee, killed in 2006 by police claiming he was carrying a gun.
No police officer in these cases was brought to justice and these victims did not become household names. In Soya Jung’s powerful piece on the importance of Ferguson to Asian Americans, she writes, “America normalizes and indulges in black death in service to a dehumanizing narrative of black criminality. The exalting of Asian Americans as a model minority reinforces this narrative. And Asian death is rendered invisible when it has no value to the power structure.” This power structure devalues all communities of color, and we will not settle for invisibility.
Third, the time to act is NOW.
Though this is a busy time of the year, APALSA calls on its members to take an active stance. We must remember that we are advocates, representatives, and future leaders of the Asian American community. Please join us for the Millions March on Saturday, December 13, 2014. APALSA will provide food and supplies to create protest signs in JG 105 starting at 12 pm. We will depart for the protest around 1 pm. All are welcome, including faculty and administration.
In case you cannot make it to the Millions March on Saturday, here are a few other ways you can support the cause:
1) Donate to the campaign raising money for bail, legal fees, and other funds for those protesting in Ferguson. The campaign ends on Dec. 19th: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ferguson-defense-fund.
2) Donate to the Ferguson library, which stayed open for children whose schools were closed on the Ferguson grand jury decision date: http://www.ferguson.lib.mo.us/.
This first step is only the beginning, and we look forward to hearing your ideas on creating a more active and engaged community.
The APALSA Board of 2014-2015
The APALSA Board of 2013-2014