Last month, Officer Peter Liang was convicted of killing Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man in a Brooklyn housing project. Since then, hundreds of Chinese Americans have marched in support of Officer Liang, many of them carrying signs that read, “One tragedy, two victims.”
If there is a second victim here, it is not you, Peter. If there is a second victim here, it might be Akai’s mother, who, like your mother, stayed up late sometimes worrying that he wouldn’t make it home. If there is a second victim here, it might be Akai’s sweetheart, who, unlike your sweetheart, had to watch her man drown in his body’s red unmaking, knowing that no help was on its way, never on its way in the neighbourhoods you patrol, Peter, never a friendly siren, only the iron lockstep of open prison guards like you, Peter.
You, who thought that keeping your darker brothers shackled in place would be a good job.You, who forgot that there is only ever one enemy, though he wears many faces, and the same God who put Akai into those projects is the same God who hammered at our accents until our mouths were clean and Biblical as stale bread, until we fit into the cogs of this pyramid scheme long enough to climb onto the backs of other Others, and so reach our scraps, our good jobs, and our decent houses with the locks on all the doors to keep out bad people.
And it’s true that no one wants to see us alive, either. They would rather see us hunched over and suicidal at an iPhone factory, or begging for pleasure at a white man’s feet, or not see us as all, but none of that makes you a victim today, Peter. It only makes you a disposable knife, a tyrant’s tool, and I will not mourn that justice was served to you. I will only keep demanding that the white versions of you get what you got.
I do not hate you, Peter. In the pictures, you could be my brother. You could be any boy at my church. But that’s the thing about family, isn’t it? That when one of your own acts up it’s your job to call him in. So call in your people, Peter. Call in the crowds, tell them to come home, to take down their signs. Tell them that we have work to do. Tell them if there is a second victim, it is not you, it is what was lost between two communities in pain, but unlike the first victim, this one can be brought back.
Celebrate National Poetry Month. Dismantle Hegemony and Oppression.