In America all ethnic minorities are targets of racism or prejudice, but let’s be very clear, there is still a hierarchy of racism in America. There are “model minorities,” a stratification of the stereotypes they are subject to, and levels to the treatment experienced in response to those differences.
Yet, when speaking on the perspectives of ethnicity and the value placed on different ethnic lives, purely from those of the status quo who collectively place these values on them, a fly is more annoying than a spider, but a spider is still better than a roach.
Many are discussing the video of the Asian passenger, Dr. David Dao, being drug off the United Airlines plane - which was patently wrong. However, in Dec of 2016 the same thing happened in Detroit on Delta Airlines to an African American woman, Professor Rhima Coleman, Ph.D., which was also caught on camera. Both are minorities, both face varying forms and degrees of prejudice in America, but the latter video showed people laughing and cracking jokes over the removal of Professor Coleman, a passenger who had also refused to leave her seat.
This is in stark contrast to Dr. Dao’s video which shows the United Airlines passengers did in fact empathize, show righteous indignation and outrage for Dr. Dao’s injustice - some even spoke out in his defense. Twitter and social media became enraged - which in fact we should all be.
What then sparks the pangs of envy or anger within some in the African American community?
It is the question felt, "Why not me too?"
"Why is my injustice not worthy of your righteous indignation?"
This is is not a dismissal of the act of aggression that Dr. David Dao experienced on United Airlines, but it begs the question to the public response, which feels completely opposite the response given the same and often fatal acts of violence regularly committed against African Americans. These are almost identical acts caught on camera by onlookers.
In contrast to...
Similar situation, similar act of police enforcement, different public response.
You can't help "feeling some type of way about it.
These are not questions that should be overlooked or ignored in the overall discussion of violence, intimidation, nor the implicit and explicit approval of it against people of color as a whole. There is a difference made in the evaluation of one life over the other, and this happens across all targeted minorities within this country and it is insidiously purposeful.
I would be a liar to say that Asians do not experience racism, prejudice, and stereotype, because in fact they do. Yet along with the prejudices Asians face, the ability for the status quo to simultaneously empathize with them "seems" greater than the general lack of empathy they have for African Americans. To go further, in spite of the violence and lack of empathy African Americans experience - right now - it's better than being Middle Eastern and Muslim (either by looks or religious affiliation) and in other cases Mexican.
It is absolutely understandable that many in the Asian community will feel enraged by this consideration when they too have felt a disregard for the treatment of Asian lives in America - especially after witnessing a brother being bloodied and dragged like a hog through the aisle. It could feel that anything other than NOW and THIS is beside the point. So I acknowledge your experience. We have to acknowledge one another.
These are deeply painful and guttural responses from people that the United Airlines case has brought up, and both sides are 100% valid and should be addressed as such. However, it should not be framed as a Black vs Asian debate - which does not serve anyone but the systems of division and racism themselves.
First and foremost, this should be a conversation about the personal injustice committed, the sanctioned aggression towards people of color, and then the greater questions that can only be posed to the status quo themselves...
Why do you - those who participate in prejudice - need to have the seemingly unquenchable power to place or remove value on or from other HUMAN LIVES - those that look differently than yours?
What is it about you as a group of like-minded and like-identified individuals that makes this so?
Then to ask ourselves...
Why have we bought into it? What's to gain by being complicit in it?
So when approaching injustices cross-culturally, between ethnic minorities, we must not look at them with the us vs them dichotomies created by the same systems that are in place that work to divide and oppress us. It’s like attempting to mop the floor clean with a soiled mop. An injustice to one remains an injustice to all - regardless of the degrees to which we may separately experience them. Let's put the onus of this discussion back where it belongs - on those who created this issue in the first place, those who have amassed the collective power to effect and change it moving forward.
Remember, one wrong supports and emboldens the other.
We are all in the same boat, one that can only be moved forward when rowed together.
Quincy LeNear is a filmmaker, writer, visual artist, and social commentator.