As an Asian American Filipino (that’s my new term, I’m an AAF), I’ve been fascinated by the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd.
All of the country has. It’s modern America’s racial reckoning.
But I got distracted when I saw reports of two new vicious attacks on Asian Americans in New York City, both caught on video.
Add them to the nearly 4,000 hate incidents reported to the website Stop AAPI Hate over the last year, and what can we conclude?
America still doesn’t get it.
The New York attacks show the nation is still unmoved by the murders of Asian women in Atlanta, or by any of President Joe Biden’s actions, from his executive memorandum to his speech at Atlanta.
Just further proof how hard it is to undo the racist modeling by the twice-impeached former president.
People still hear the echoes of Trump’s mockingly racist ire that scapegoated Asian Americans for the virus. And then they carry out Trump’s rage, but not by throwing around epithets that can easily be ignored as benign. They’re resorting to extreme bullying and physical violence
And all of it driven by hate.
The coincidence of the continuing rise in AAPI hate and the Derek Chauvin trial leads me to this takeaway: When you look at George Floyd, what do you see? If you don’t see an Asian American, then look again. As people of color in America, we all have had a knee on our necks.
So why are we attacking one another?
The videos of the recent Asian American attacks in New York City are unrelentingly violent.
A 65-year-old Asian American woman is now hospitalized with severe injuries after she was brutally beaten by a much larger attacker for no reason. The attack happened in front of a luxury New York City apartment building. A surveillance cam caught it all, including the two security guards who are seen closing the front glass doors as the beating takes place. They do not go outside to help.
Then there was the video of the subway attack on a man described as Asian. The attacker quickly subdued the Asian man and got him in a choke hold that left him unconscious. No one moves to help the Asian man.
Getting your cameras out to video tape the action is a good first step. That’s evidence. But we need a throng of righteous folks of all backgrounds at least to shout and cause a commotion that would distract or cause a perp to stop.
But in America, who has the courage to act on our behalf? No one in those two New York City attacks.
I had just reviewed the videos when the Chauvin trial brought on a key prosecution witness.
Darnella Frazier’s name is usually labeled next the video the whole world has seen. It’s nearly ten minutes showing the whole scenario— how Officer Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck until the paramedics arrived on the scene.
As an underage witness at the trial, Frazier’s face was not shown. But her voice could be heard. And her testimony has been the most compelling and persuasive of the trial so far.
She recalled her traumatic witnessing of Floyd’s death.
“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins my uncles, because they are all black. I have a black brother, I have black friends. And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them.
“It’s been nights, I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more. And not physically interacting.”
They are words for us all to live by.
On CNN, Van Jones said Frazier had witnessed a lynching.
“When you have a lynching, which is what this was,” said Jones, “you aren’t just torturing the individual who you’re strangling to death, you’re torturing the whole community.”
A modern day lynching is specific and symbolic all at once. If you know Asian American history, then you know Asians in California, Chinese and Filipino, were lynched in America.
As my friend Ishmael Reed told me on my amok.com vlog, don’t let the media play “divide and conquer.” This isn’t a Black vs. Asian thing.
It’s the reason why one shouldn’t get hung up about Officer Tou Thao, a Hmong American, appearing to stand guard as Chauvin continues to hold Floyd to the ground.
It’s the reason I don’t consider it relevant that the perps in the recent NYC attacks appear to be African American.
All people of color have been under someone’s knee in America. It’s our common ground, our shared past in America’s racist history.
That’s why when I see George Floyd, I see an Asian American. And so should you.