Open Letter

November 26, 2014

We, the undersigned, are Asian-American writers and scholars. We are very aware of the ways a story is told. We are also keenly and painfully aware of the ways a story gets untold.

18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed last summer by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His body was left out in the street for four and a half hours. We are deeply troubled by repeated miscarriages of justice against people of color, not the least of which is the grand jury’s recent failure to deliver even a minimum indictment of Darren Wilson — all this given just a few widely accepted (if not irrefutable) pieces of information. Just to begin with:

  1. Michael Brown was unarmed.
  2. There is conflicting testimony on record about the actual confrontation, and Wilson’s version of the story appears to have been privileged in this case, a testimony which refers to Michael Brown in inhuman terms.
  3. The Medical Examiner seems to not have taken pictures at the crime scene.
  4. There is widespread concern that grand juries, too frequently, refuse to indict in cases of police shootings. Fivethirtyeight.com reports: “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.” That is, there is statistical evidence that prosecutors seeking indictments get them — unless it’s a cop. There is a historical pattern of not holding officers accountable in the justice system, while the burden of proof remains with the families and communities of the victims of these police shootings. Too often these are families and communities of color.

The killing of Michael Brown is just one case among many. We are outraged by the state violence against young black and brown men and the less noticed but equally distressing state violence against black and brown women. We are dissatisfied with an unjust system and dominant culture that continues to craft false narratives around our African American, Latino, and Native American brothers and sisters – similar to the construction of false narratives about Asian Americans.

The myth of the model minority, for example, has sought to pit us against each other, even though some of us have a long history of mutual support and collaboration across racial lines. We can’t overstate this: the rich, productive, complicated relationships across boundaries among Asian, Latino, and African-American people are too often poorly represented or entirely erased. It may not appear in the official record, but we squabble and we love. The evidence of this suppressed history very often finds its way into the poems, novels, talk-stories, plays, kitchen gossip, and movies that we are making – works of art that are often ignored or dismissed.

We live in an American culture of privilege and disregard, and we want things to change. We share the feelings of helplessness and frustration rising now across the country about the tragic death of Michael Brown. We share the anger and sorrow of our time.

(Edit: Since the drafting of the letter, one signee made us aware of documented problems with the private autopsy. So we removed reference to it from this list. We, like many Americans, still believe strongly that the grand jury was mistaken in not returning an indictment.)

Signed,
Patrick Rosal, Rutgers University-Camden

Jessica Hagedorn, New York City

Maxine Hong Kingston

Sarah Gambito, Fordham University, Kundiman

Joseph Legaspi, Kundiman

Jennifer Chang, George Washington University

Oliver de la Paz, Western Washington University, Kundiman

Marilyn Chin, Professor Emerita, San Diego State University

Larry Hajime Shinagawa, Former DIrector, Asian American Studies Program, University of Maryland

Tina Chang, Sarah Lawrence College

Karissa Chen, Hyphen magazine

Lee Herrick, Fresno City College

Luis Francia, Hunter College

Gina Apostol, New York City

Kazim Ali, Oberlin College

Ed Lin, New York City

Lara Stapleton, BMCC of CUNY

Ellen Oh, author, lawyer, and social activist

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, The State University of New York at Fredonia

Ravi Shankar, Central Connecticut State University

Barbara Jane Reyes, Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, University of San Francisco, Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA, Inc.)

Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Bao Phi, Justice for Fong Lee Committee

M.Evelina Galang, University of Miami, VONA/Voices

Eugene Gloria, DePauw University

Kimiko Hahn, Queens College, The City University of New York

Andrew Hsiao, Verso Books

Lisa Chen, Kaya Press, Kundiman

Juliana Chang, Santa Clara University

Sabina Murray, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Juliana Hu Pegues, Macalester College and Justice for Fong Lee Committee

Amitava Kumar, Vassar College

Eric Gamalinda, New York City

Alexander Chee

Bill Cheng

Paolo Javier, New York City

Sunyoung Lee, Kaya Press

Vijay Prashad

Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, The Asian American Literary Review, University of Maryland

David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Stanford University

Regie Cabico

Tou SaiKo Lee, Justice for Fong Lee Committee

Bino Realuyo

Allan Punzalan Isaac, Rutgers-New Brunswick

R. Zamora Linmark, Honolulu

Ed Bok Lee, Metropolitan State University

Han Ong, New York City

V.V. Ganeshananthan, Fellow, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Amarnath Ravva, Kaya Press

Thaddeus Rutkowski, Medgar Evers College

Gene Oishi, Baltimore

Sam Chanse, New York City

Elaine H. Kim, Professor of Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies, UC Berkeley

Koon Woon, Kaya Press

Lysley Tenorio, Saint Mary’s College of California

David Mura, Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition and the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA)

Midori Yamamura, CUNY Graduate Center

Cathy Park Hong, Sarah Lawrence College

Chang-Rae Lee, Princeton, NJ

Young Jean Lee, Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company

David L. Eng, University of Pennsylvania

Celeste Ng

Karen Tei Yamashita

Monique Truong

Julia H. Lee, UC Irvine

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117Rick BarotNov 29, 2014
116Taiyo NaNov 29, 2014
115Nathan GoUniversity of Michigan MFANov 29, 2014
114Fredrick CloydNov 29, 2014
113Marthe ReedBlack Radish Books, Nous-zot PressNov 29, 2014
112Alyss DixsonVIDA, writer-producerNov 29, 2014
111Wo ChanPoets & Writers, KundimanNov 29, 2014
110Vivek BaldNov 29, 2014
109Neelanjana BanerjeeKaya PressNov 29, 2014
108Luann AlgosoBrownGirlDecolonized.comNov 29, 2014
107Daniel EisenPacific UniversityNov 29, 2014
106Kazumi ChinNov 29, 2014
105Roz LiNov 29, 2014
104Amy Ray PabalanNov 29, 2014
103Evelyn KimBarnard CollegeNov 29, 2014
102Phyllis MyungNov 29, 2014
101Adriel LuisNov 29, 2014
100Katie Hae LeoNational Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, Phoenix ChapterNov 29, 2014
99Stephanie SajorKmB Pro-People Youth, Sunday JumpNov 29, 2014
98Hannah ParkNov 29, 2014
97Thien-Kim Lamwww.imnotthenanny.comNov 29, 2014
96Calvin PrashadNew VoicesNov 29, 2014
95Neil AitkenUniversity of Southern CaliforniaNov 29, 2014
94Patti DuncanOregon State UniversityNov 29, 2014
93Kimberly AlidioNov 29, 2014
92Jacob CamachoRutgers, Camden MFANov 29, 2014
91Michelle BrownNov 29, 2014
90Janine OshiroNov 29, 2014
89Vanessa HuangAtlanta, GaNov 29, 2014
88Patricia WakidaKaya PressNov 29, 2014
87Luisa IgloriaOld Dominion UniversityNov 29, 2014
86David HurUC Santa Barbara Nov 29, 2014
85Rudy GuevarraArizona State UniversityNov 29, 2014
84Dan LauNov 29, 2014
83Hei Kyong KimNov 29, 2014
82Tamiko BeyerNov 29, 2014
81Rajiv MohabirNov 29, 2014
80Lisa HsiaNov 29, 2014
79Jung KimLewis UniversityNov 29, 2014
78Patricia Mushim IkedaNov 29, 2014
77Theresa Celebran JonesNov 29, 2014
76Jenn FangReappropriate.coNov 29, 2014
75Swati KhuranaNov 29, 2014
74Eugenia BehAsian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA)Nov 29, 2014
73Brenda ShaughnessyRutgers University-NewarkNov 29, 2014
72Gerald MaaNov 29, 2014
71Mariam LamNov 29, 2014
70Kenji LiuNov 29, 2014
69Alex-Quan PhamNov 29, 2014
68Sueyeun Juliette LeeUniversity of the ArtsNov 29, 2014
67Theo GonzalvesNov 29, 2014
66Jose PaduaNov 29, 2014
65Ravi ChandraPsychology TodayNov 29, 2014
64Sally Wen MaoHunter CollegeNov 29, 2014
63jai dulaniNYC, Kundiman, VONA Nov 29, 2014
62Timothy TauLos AngelesNov 29, 2014
61Joseph Ruanto-RamirezUC San Diego (Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, & Desi American Initiatives)Nov 29, 2014
60James LeeUniversity of California, IrvineNov 29, 2014
59Allyson AngNov 29, 2014
58Aaron BaeArizona State UniversityNov 29, 2014
57Daphne CraneSan Franciso State University-AASNov 29, 2014
56Leilani NishimeUniversity of Washington, CommunicationNov 29, 2014
55Cynthia WuUniversity at BuffaloNov 29, 2014
54Conrad PanganibanSan Francisco State UniversityNov 29, 2014
53Janine JosephKundiman Nov 29, 2014
52Simi KangUniversity of Minnesota, Twin CitiesNov 29, 2014
51Julie Thi UnderhillUniversity of California BerkeleyNov 29, 2014
50William GilesNov 29, 2014
49Patricia MagnoNew York CityNov 29, 2014
48Fady JoudahNov 29, 2014
47Laurel FantauzzoNonfiction WriterNov 29, 2014
46John Thatamanil Union Theological Seminary Nov 28, 2014
45Sabina ChenNov 28, 2014
44Hossannah AsuncionKundiman, CUNYNov 28, 2014
43Samantha DizonUniversity of California BerkeleyNov 28, 2014
42Rebecca Mabanglo-MayorAuthor, Professor of English, NWICNov 28, 2014
41Jordan AlamNov 28, 2014
40Randy RibayNov 28, 2014
39Edward Batoctoy AparisNov 28, 2014
38Grace LiewPoetNov 28, 2014
37Chaitali SenwriterNov 28, 2014
36W. Todd KanekoGrand Valley State UniversityNov 28, 2014
35Franny ChoiProject VOICE, Dark NoiseNov 28, 2014
34Michael Santos SandovalNov 28, 2014
33Ru FreemanNov 28, 2014
32George Yamazawa Jr. Nov 28, 2014
31Jennifer Kwon DobbsSt. Olaf CollegeNov 28, 2014
30Jason BayaniKearny Street WorkshopNov 28, 2014
29Michelle LinPoetNov 28, 2014
28Kevin NadalCity University of New YorkNov 28, 2014
27Christopher FanHyphen magazine & UC BerkeleyNov 28, 2014
26Hieu Minh NguyenNov 28, 2014
25Takeo RiveraUC Berkeley; independent playwrightNov 28, 2014
24Carolyn Li-MadeoNov 28, 2014
23Timothy YuUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonNov 28, 2014
22Monica OngNov 28, 2014
21Chen ChenSyracuse University MFA ProgramNov 28, 2014
20Chris SantiagoUniversity of Southern CaliforniaNov 28, 2014
19Lisa LeeUniversity of Southern CaliforniaNov 28, 2014
18Sharline ChiangBerkeley, CA; Voices of Our Nations Arts FoundationNov 28, 2014
17Angela Veronica WongNov 28, 2014
16Elaine H KimUC BerkeleyNov 28, 2014
15Scott KurashigeNov 28, 2014
14James KimFordham University Nov 28, 2014
13Fatimah AsgharNov 28, 2014
12Janice SapigaoSkyline College/San Jose City CollegeNov 28, 2014
11Tarfia FaizullahNov 28, 2014
10Abigail LicadHyphen magazineNov 28, 2014
9Jay Santa CruzNov 28, 2014
8Jennifer DeriloKartika Review, Southwestern College, San Diego City CollegeNov 28, 2014
7Tamiko NimuraContributor to Discover Nikkei, the International Examiner, and Seattle StarNov 28, 2014
6Adam MiyashiroStockton CollegeNov 28, 2014
5Minh-Ha PhamPratt InstituteNov 28, 2014
4David Kyuman KimConnecticut CollegeNov 28, 2014
3R.A. VillanuevaNew York CityNov 28, 2014
2Agnes MagtotoNew York UniversityNov 28, 2014
1Noel ShawNov 28, 2014