On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, commemorating that historic day in 1963 when hundreds of thousands held a peaceful demonstration protesting against racial discrimination and unfair treatment and wages against minorities, the National Immigration Law Center’s executive director then Marielena Hincapie said of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “We share his dream that all people – regardless of their race, gender, or immigration or economic status – be treated equally, fairly, and humanely…that all people have equal access to justice, education, government resources and economic opportunities, and are able to achieve their full potential as human beings.”
The fight to end police brutality on Black Americans in this nation is a fight for all who believe in fairness and equal treatment under the law. This is not just an African American problem. Where injustice occurs, especially injustice against disadvantaged people, it must be an American issue, a humanity struggle for all of us to find solutions.
We are indebted to the Black community
Immigrant communities and people of color owe a lot to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and African American civil rights leaders of the 1960s. The driving force of the civil rights movement were led by African Americans from which the entire nation benefited.
The overall goal of the civil rights movement of the ‘60s was to abolish racial discrimination. MLK was not just fighting for the Black community; he was fighting for all racial discrimination to end.
Immigrants are indebted to the Black community
MLK and civil rights leaders fought hard for the fair treatment of immigrants and were a pivotal force in getting the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 passed. This law abolished the previous National Origins Formula. This new Act led to the equal treatment of race or nationality and abolished the old immigration system that favored entry of western European countries.
If it were not for the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, today’s immigrant communities would not be as diverse as it is today. At least for Asian immigrants, they would have been limited in number and largely only descendants of plantation workers. But this Act allowed for multiple waves of Asian immigrants to enter the U.S. after 1965.
Right to vote and ban discrimination
All people of color (of course Asians included) benefitted from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Again, it was the Black community who joined Asian and Latin communities to push for these Acts with the Black community having greater political influence then to affect change.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 officially banned discrimination in employment and public accommodations that was based on race, color, religion and/or national origin. (Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling adds sexual orientation to this list.)
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave every U.S. citizen, no matter his or her race, the right to vote. These two Acts basically empowered colored communities politically and economically. Again, this includes our Asian community.
Just on history alone, how African Americans paved the way for all communities of color to benefit and become more equal citizens in the U.S., we must remember this and fight for them as they’ve fought for us.
2020 is turning out to be the year of revealing truths. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our nation’s structural weaknesses in our economy and healthcare. The death of George Floyd revealed that Dr. King Jr.’s work remains unfinished wherein the most basic of freedoms, specifically, the right to feel safe and secure from harm, is being denied to our African American community.
This finally must be changed. There must be immediate and swift accountability when police brutality occurs. In cases of obvious wrongdoing as what occurred with Mr. Floyd, action must result in immediate firing and speedy prosecution.
There needs to be an independent investigative body made up of citizens that can watch over police departments. Police Commissions’ authority should be expanded beyond the ability to hire or fire a police chief. As it is now, police unions largely have this responsibility of oversight. This is self-policing and not working, and a reason why bad apples remain on the force. The fact that police unions are powerful political entities makes it difficult to make necessary changes.
The way data is collected on police brutality is completely voluntary and inadequate. There must be a national data system tracking wrongful complaints filed against police. This data should be transparent for all citizens to see and police commissions. Again, police commissions duties should be expanded to review complaints and to weed out bad cops.
On the ground with regard to enforcement: ban chokeholds; body cams should be turned on each time officers engage in police work; military grade weapons should not be handed down to police departments; and the use of deadly force must be limited to only life and death situations. The killing of unarmed civilians must stop.
On recruiting — something not addressed by politicians and policing reforms currently on the table – there must be a battery of psychological tests that can identify applicants with racist or overly aggressive inclinations.
Clearly, the vast majority of police officers are appreciated and do an excellent job. But the few bad apples show that there are systemic deficiencies. Police Departments are big on fraternity and brotherhood, that is important for field work. But when bad cops are proven to be bad cops, that’s when fraternity must end.
Policing reform is not a Black Lives Matter versus policemen issue. It’s ultimately about public safety and stopping brutality. If policemen have issue with that, then they ought to change professions.