MGA KABABAYAN, we have seen the gruesome video and pictures recounting how Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on African American George Floyd’s neck last week while Floyd pleaded with him, saying he couldn’t breathe.
Multiple videos reveal the white police officer knelt on the 42-year-old black man for eight minutes and 46 seconds in total and two minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd was unresponsive, according to CNN.
Police issued a statement earlier this week that they were responding to an alleged forgery that they got Monday evening and that “Floyd “physically resisted officers,” the network reported.
Contrary to the police statement, surveillance video from outside Minneapolis restaurant Dragon Wok reveals that Floyd did NOT resist arrest before Chauvin knelt on his neck.
According to an independent autopsy report ordered by Floyd’s family, Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” when his neck and back were compressed by Minneapolis police officers during his arrest last week. The pressure cut off blood flow to his brain, that autopsy determined.
But Minneapolis’s medical examiner’s office, in its report, also released Monday, said that the cause of death is “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” Cardiopulmonary arrest means Floyd’s heart failed. CNN reported that the medical examiner made no mention of asphyxiation.
“Many Americans are being killed by the police — more than 1,000 per year,” the New York Times reported. “So does a pandemic that’s disproportionately killing African-Americans. And so do the angry, racialized politics that President Trump encourages.”
For these reasons, “the anger is different this time,” the Times reported. And so peaceful protests erupted in different cities in the United States, and even in different countries where people fight against racism and police brutality in solidarity with the American people.
BUT for many people, even among us Filipinos, who are watching news reports showcasing the looting, property damage, lawlessness, violence, and chaos that ensued and even during protests, the focus has shifted away from what the protesters have peacefully been fighting against.
Read the comments on social media posted by yourself or your family and friends, and you will see how many Filipinos in America think the protestors and the looters are one and the same. Their comments have now been denouncing the looting and the violence, understandably so, but without differentiating between the protesters and the looters.
Many of us have once again echoed the usual undertone that the black people are to blame for the looting, that the police are, after all, justified to be suspicious of them and their actions without according them the due process that the Constitution mandates to be given to all people. They lose sight of the message the peaceful protests are demanding for: police accountability and how racism factors in the criminal justice system in the United States.
Did you know that many of the chaos we are watching and hearing about in the news are initiated and perpetuated by non-black people?
It is very important to read this report by Forbes:
“But some of this anger has been misguided, as individuals whose connection to the protests, communities, or reasons for joining the cause seem dubious. In some cases, non-Black protestors have moved peaceful gather
“Take this video for instance, of a Black woman, Courtney Nichole, trying to stop two non-Black women from graffiting a Starbucks in Los Angeles with “Black Lives Matter.” They essentially “whitesplained” their justification — to which she responded, ”they don’t show your face when they show that, they show ours… do not let them come into your peaceful protest and make it something that it’s not. That man could not breathe on the street. It is not about them… If you are tagging on behalf of Black Lives Matter, ask someone Black.”
“Across the country, it’s been widely reported that white supremacist and alt-right groups have taken advantage of protests for their own purposes. In Minnesota, city officials — after witnessing both in-person instigations and reviewing social media footage shared by attendees — extended a city-wide curfew on residents to help verify who the late-night looters are and where they’re coming from.”
“The fact that we’ve seen so many of them in so many places now makes us believe that this is part of that pattern that shows that this is in fact an organised activity and not some random act of rage,” says Minnesota corrections department commissioner John Harrington. As one white activist experienced in solidarity actions noted, “Some of the folks are white and not following black leadership, the others are actively there to disrupt Black leadership” — both groups are dangerous, and distract from the true purpose of the protests.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
On Monday, June 1, he declared himself the “president of law and order” and in a brief statement delivered from the Rose Garden of the White House, he “ordered governors and mayors to establish “an overwhelming law enforcement presence” until the protests have been quelled, and he threatened to send in the U.S. military to “quickly solve the problem for them.”
Trump made no mention of the reason why people were protesting, no mention about police brutality and racism, and no differentiation between the peaceful protests and the violent looting. His threats against protesters in general are in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
He claimed he supports peaceful protests but his action and true intention betray what he professed. At the time he was speaking “police also fired rubber bullets at protesters gathered peacefully on the edge of Lafayette Square directly in front of the White House. After his speech and with the square cleared, the president walked across the street for a photo-op in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he held up a Bible,” Politico reported.
Trump has a history of discriminating against black people as a businessman, demonizing yet abusing immigrants of color for money, treating refugees inhumanely, obsessing over the legitimacy of the first Black president and erasing his legacy.
Trump has also blamed the extreme left group “ANTIFA” (Anti-fascist) for the violence and designated the group a terrorist organization, while defending the Alt-Right, the far right, white nationalist movement based in the United States, the Ku Klux Klan and other neo-Nazis, calling them “fine people” in their defense.
You would recall the “Unite the Right” rally that sparked the violence in Charlottesville in August of 2017 featured several leading names in the white-nationalist alt-right movement, and also attracted people displaying Nazi symbols.
As the Atlantic reported, “they walked down the street, the white-nationalist protesters chanted “blood and soil,” the English translation of a Nazi slogan. One of the men seen marching with the fascist group American Vanguard, James A. Fields, is charged with deliberately ramming a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer.”
MGA KABABAYAN, where are we in this fight? We felt how it was to be discriminated against when Trump labeled undocumented immigrants as “stealing U.S. jobs, criminals, rapists, drug peddlers” and some Filipinos were even told to “Go home!” by white people who would not know who among the nonwhite are actually documented and undocumented.
Filipino Americans have also become targets of “excessive use of force” by police officers over the years, as The Filipino Channel’s daily newscast “Balitang America” has been reporting for more than a decade.
We felt how Asians were discriminated against with the COVID-19 pandemic when Trump labeled it as “Chinese virus.” Some kababayans who “look Chinese” had been subject to harassment and blame.
Have we ever been bold and unambiguous in our support for black people in America who had been discriminated against and profiled for centuries, even after we elected the first African American president in Barack Obama?
Or have we assimilated and acculturated to the white culture, echo what they say and how they define “American”, so we can delude ourselves into thinking that they will accept us as they do caucasian looking people despite the color of our skin?
Is this why some of us refuse to call out President Trump? Is this why some of us pretend all is well in America, thinking that saying otherwise makes us “walang utang na loob” (ungrateful), unless the target of criticism is a black president?
Let me share an excerpt from an article written by Asian American Larry Lin, born and raised in San Jose, California. He serves as a pastor at The Village Church Hampden in Baltimore, MD. He has a BS from Cornell University and a MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“While the white officer was pinning down Floyd’s neck with his knee, an Asian officer was standing by in silence, and even at times preventing protestors from intervening.
“To me, it was the perfect representation of Asian American complicity in racism.
“I acknowledge that there have been Asian Americans throughout history who have fought alongside their African American neighbors against racism. However, they have been far outnumbered by Asian Americans who have chosen to be ignorant at best or complicit at worst in their racism.”
FILIPINOS in America, have we been complicit in fanning the flame of racism and police brutality in America?
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.