Speech at the “Equal Justice for All” Rally in Front ofOrlando City Hall
12:15pm, February 20, 2016
Two years ago, we held a rally to protest against ABC hostJimmy Kimmel’s racist remarks on an innocent child’s idea of “killing all Chinesepeople.” That rally was part of a nation-wide protest with ten of thousands ofparticipants in nearly 20 cities across the country. Two years later, we areonce again holding rallies nation-wide, this time with hundreds of thousands ofparticipants across the country, and the number of cities doubles to over 40cities. This shows our increasing solidarity.
We are here today to mourn Mr. Akai Gurley, send condolencesto his family, and fight the injustices committed against Mr. Gurley and PeterLiang. The speakers before me have said enough about why the trial of PeterLiang is unjust. Here I would like to add one more point. The injustices towardMr. Gurley and Peter Liang were not isolated individual occurrences; instead,they were reflective of systemic racial discrimination in the law enforcementand judicial system. Something is wrong with the system.
Better lawyers for Peter Liang may bring about more hopefulresults within the existing legal system, but at the same time, andparticularly in the medium and long term, we need to demand changes of thelegal system itself. Laws in human society do not work the same way laws innature do. Natural laws do not change. Human laws do change. In 1963, Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. had the courage to lead the Civil Rights Movement anddelivered the inspiring “I have a dream” speech. The next year, the CivilRights Act of 1964 was passed. Human laws changed. To borrow words from thefamous Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, rewinding exactly 100years in history from MLK’s speech, which ended with a resounding “governmentof the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,”I would like to stress that human laws can be changed by the people, for thepeople, and as a result of the people.
Apart from the legal system, something needs to be doneabout the economic system, when increasing economic inequality and povertythreaten the prospects of racial justice. We should not forget that Mr. Gurleyhad to walk downstairs in the stairwell of a Pink Houses building due tounderperformed elevators and that the stairwell was unlit due to lightfailures. These two lamentable objective living conditions in the buildingconstituted uncontrollable forces leading to the tragedy. Here, racialinjustice is clearly linked to economic injustice.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was famous for leading the 1963March on Washington, which was about obtaining equal legal rights for AfricanAmericans. Toward the last days of his life, however, he realized that theconditions of African Americans were not just about legal rights; they wereactually deeply rooted in economic inequalities. Just a few months before hewas assassinated in April 1968, he started a new cause—the Poor People’sCampaign. His legacy of linking racial to economic
injustice is less well known to us, and his pursuit ofeconomic justice stays an unfulfilled dream to this day. A quote from JosephLowery, another civil rights movement leader, illustrates this idea mostpowerfully: “It’s one thing to have the right to check into the Hiltons and theMarriotts; it’s another thing to have the means to check out.” This quoteresonated very well with the lamentable Pink Houses conditions Mr. Gurley hadto live with.
In addition to systemic racial and class inequalities, wealso need to address gender inequalities. Today I am seeing a lot of faces ofwomen. I have also heard about many touching stories of women volunteers andorganizers who did great preparations for this rally. Salutes to all theseunsung heroes of our rally! Without their brilliant work and significantcontribution, we would not have stood here. At this moment I strongly feel thatwomen support more than half the sky. They deserve a special quote from thelongest-serving First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, whohappened to be an advocate for three important components of social justice Ihave stressed today: equality for women, civil rights of African Americans, andcivil rights of Asian Americans. In 1946 she asked: “When will our consciencesgrow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge?”This quote resonates very well with one of the slogans of our rallytoday—Revenge Is Not Justice!
African Americans, Asian Americans, the poor, women, policeofficers, and all other disadvantaged people, let us combine our hands to builda more just legal and socioeconomic system devoid of racial, class and genderinequalities. This is our best way to mourn Mr. Gurley and to support PeterLiang.