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Commentary: Protests backing convicted police officer expose chronic racial discrimination in US

(People's Daily Online)    10:15, February 24, 2016

Thousands of Chinese and other Asian Americans recently staged rallies across the U.S. to protest the conviction of Peter Liang, a Chinese-American former police officer, for accidently killing an African American man while on duty. 

Liang was convicted last week of second degree manslaughter and official misconduct in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a darkened stairwell of a public housing complex.

Setting aside the technicalities, the reason why this case has aroused such a strong response is deeply rooted in U.S. racial conflicts.

Liang’s supporters noted the strained relationship between police and African Americans across the country after a string of incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by white officers, many of whom were never charged.

Many believe that Liang has been made a scapegoat for those white officers who evaded indictment, and has been treated unfairly because he is Asian.

“It has pulled at a thread long woven through the city’s Asian population, which sees what happened as yet another example of the mistreatment of a marginalized community, ill-equipped to fight back,” the New York Times commented on the event.

The White House also acknowledged that in many parts of the U.S., there is a deep distrust between communities of color and the law enforcement that is obligated to serve and protect them.

Issues of race have haunted America for centuries. Liang’s case is just another manifestation of this chronic societal ill.

Minority groups, whether African or Asian American, are economically and politically vulnerable in the country. They face wide social class gaps that have fundamentally contributed to the sensitivity of the issue.

Recent years have yielded a series of race-related controversies. Those incidents, including the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri and the Baltimore riots, put a strain on American society and attract global attention.

As former Virginia governor Tim Kaine has pointed out, today’s U.S. society may not be as divided as it was during the Civil War, but anyone who watches the daily news can tell that there is deep social disintegration.

Outsiders observing U.S. politics should note that mainstream policies cannot effectively tackle the challenges brought on by racial discrimination.

Although the U.S. government loves to play the human rights card in the global arena, its inaction when it comes to this domestic issue surely calls that supposed superiority into question.

In today’s U.S. society, one feels anxious about the changes in class division, while at the same pressed to address the split between liberals and conservatives.

Due to the political divide, the U.S. political system is incapable of resolving the racial conflicts through political means.

According to reports from Liang’s case, poor lighting in public housing is directly associated with the tragedy. Details like this deserve more attention.

In the eyes of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, social upheaval caused by racial conflicts reflect the public’s disappointment with long-term poverty and a lack of economic mobility.

The stability of any society depends not only on an inclusive culture, but also on an effective guarantee of social equality.

When such goals are realized, the idea of all people being born equal will no longer be just words on a paper, and discrimination against minorities will be eradicated. 

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