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Reflecting on Peter Liang’s case of police brutality

Many people have probably heard about the issue of Peter Liang, a former New York City police officer, who also identifies as American-Chinese. He has been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for shooting Akai Gurley, an African-American individual. I have no objection to Liang’s conviction because there is a very small possibility that the fatal shooting was a result of any technical malfunction. Also, further investigation did not reveal any evidence of Liang calling for an ambulance immediately after the accident.

Around Feb. 20, a few days after the incident, protests burst out in major cities advocating for Liang’s release. I understand that protesters were advocating that Liang should not be considered the “scapegoat,” as their protesting signs argued. On the other hand, I believe the protests should not be considered appropriate because the protesters ignored the feelings of the African- American community in the United States, as an African American man is the actual victim in this case. When we are advocating for equality for the Chinese minority, the basic human rights for black people must also be considered at the same time.

Thinking beyond this case, does it mean that we do not need to pay attention to the Chinese population as a minority in the whole society or in Wooster? Does it mean that discrimination against the Chinese minority never existed? Of course not — there should be more awareness about the Chinese population and about Asian groups as a whole.

Thinking back to the justice dialogue of “Emasculation of Asian Man and Fetishization of Asian Woman” from MLK Day, I asked myself a question: What are the differences between stereotypes and generalizations? People tend to make generalizations toward certain racial groups, and some impressions toward a certain group of people are mostly true. For example, I admit that most East Asian girls tend to be docile and modest, due to the education they received and social norms that they followed. Additionally, yes, they are, on average, shorter compared to females of other racial identities. With this in mind, what are stereotypes? They are assumptions that people tend to make the first time they meet someone or the assumptions people have before they actually get to know someone. For example, people assume someone of East Asian descent is good at math, without knowing them or knowing where they are from specifically. Similarly, people may guess someone is shy and conservative only because they appear to be East Asian, though, again, they have never talked to them. Generalizations are automatic, inevitable responses, and thus, may be acceptable, while stereotyping warrants more chances of making racist assumptions. The best way I see fit to promote the prevention of stereotyping is to never assume anything about other people. Furthermore, although there are similarities among us, we must remember that everyone is their own person, and we should not stereotype against them.

I appreciate how in my experience in Wooster, most people around me are open and welcoming. I’m touched and moved by my American friends and for what they have told me: “What is the best way I can get to know people with different cultural backgrounds? I feel badly that I have not paid a lot of attention to students of various racial identities before, but I want to let you know that I am wanting to open up and be fully accepting to you all.”

Shuwen Pang, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at SPang18@wooster.edu.

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