DeclarASIAN is a platform that advocates for Asian and Asian-American empowerment. However, I think it’s crucial to speak up for other minorities when they face extreme injustice. Today’s “AAPI Heritage Appreciation Month” Lesson is replaced with something I think more people need to not only know about but speak up about.
On May 25, 2020, a black man named George Floyd was handcuffed and pinned down by a police officer. The police officer, Officer Derek Chauvin, used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground. Chauvin, a white male officer, could hear Floyd’s pleas for him to lift his knee.
In bystander video footage, Floyd can be heard pleading,
“Please, please, please, I can’t breathe.
My stomach hurts. My neck hurts.
Please. Please, I can’t breathe. You're going to kill me.”
This footage was extremely difficult to watch, as Chauvin ignored Floyd’s breathless pleas for help. New footage obtained shows that he wasn’t resisting arrest like Chauvin claimed. He wasn’t violently acting out. He was simply begging for his life. There were three other officers with Chauvin as he murdered George Floyd. One of them was an Asian-American officer, Tou Thao.
While I recognize there was another officer, as an Asian-American empowerment platform, I feel like it’s dire to address the inappropriate and despicable actions of Thao. Although he didn’t physically kill Floyd, he was just a part of his death as Chauvin. He stood by and watched and did nothing. Upon further research, it turns out that Thao has had a spotty career. He was laid off at the Minneapolis Police Department in 2010, then returned in 2012. It’s also now revealed that during his time as an officer, 6 complaints were filed against Thao, and in 2017, he was sued by Lamar Ferguson for using excessive force during an arrest, including punching, beating, and kicking.
It disgusts me that Thao didn’t stand up for Floyd’s life. As a minority, it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or Chinese or Indian or Hispanic. You need to stand up for one another against mistreatment especially when it stems from racism and discrimination.
(By the way, Ferguson’s brutal attack didn’t make any headlines when it happened. Why? I guess because he didn’t die. And I guess that’s what it takes to get people to pay attention nowadays. Death. )
And yet, even that doesn’t seem to change the deep-rooted racism that runs through this country. In 2014, Eric Garner was held in a chokehold by a white, male New York Police Officer and killed. The officer in charge of his death wasn’t fired until late 2019. The way it unfolded, and the protests of Garner’s death were almost the exact same as the ones now. How many deaths will it take, how many protests, until things change?
I wrote an article a few days ago about police brutality with Asian-Americans and other minorities throughout history. Never did I think that something like this would happen just a few days later to a black man. But should I have? It makes me sick to say that in America, this type of incident is almost the new norm. It happens so often that unless media attention is given to it (which is rare) or someone dies, people turn a blank eye to it. There’s so much racism and violence embedded in the United States that even as things seem to be progressing, we haven’t even started to scratch the tip of the iceberg.
George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as Eric Garner’s, as much as mine or yours or the life of literally any other person. And every other life taken by this awful human construct of racism will matter.
Rest in Peace, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, John Crawford, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, Oscar Grant, Clifford Glover, Sean Bell, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Kelly Thomas, Jamar Clark, Antonio Martin, and so many others.
Author: Carina Sun