The shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train platform, by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's day 2009 was captured on multiple cameras and video phones. The shooting led to several days of protests, and some rioting and looting in downtown Oakland, in January of 2009.
Last week, Mehserle was convicted -- in Los Angeles, by a jury with no black members -- of involuntary manslaughter, a crime that doesn't carry a mandatory jail sentence. (Although the use of a gun may create conditions that mandate a jail sentence.) The decision was met last Thursday with two hours of peaceful protesting, followed by a night of clashes between police and protestors, as well as looting and vandalism throughout the center of Oakland.
There's still a great deal of confusion and disagreement about what actually happened the night of the protests. (I'm not linking to any stories because there are too many. Go ahead and Google it.) What is clear enough is that this whole mess is reminding many people of the Rodney King riots in 1992, which began with a similar incidental video recording of police brutality and ended, for many Asian Americans in L.A., with irreparable damage to their businesses and homes -- and to their sense of community. For many, the Rodney King riots underlined Asian Americans' precarious position in the black/white mainstream racial landscape.
The looting and vandalism in Oakland last week didn't affect Asian American businesses in particular, but what were Asian American business owners thinking? Were there fears that they would be targeted? What were Asian American Oaklanders thinking? In fact, what were Asian Americans in general thinking last week while waiting for the verdict, or watching the protests get out of hand?
Were you there? Were you watching on TV? What were you thinking/worrying about? How did you, and do you, feel? Let's download about what happened last week.
PLEASE NOTE: I'd love to hear accounts of what happened from people who were there, but let's not fight about it. There will be no grandstanding, personal insults, attacks, cursing, straw man arguments, racist language, stereotyping, or excessive passion. Please stick to your own experience and point of view, and try not to impute experiences or points of view to others.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!